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From 'harm minimization' to 'zero tolerance' drugs policy in Australia: how the Howard government changed its mind

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This article utilizes a case study of Australian drug policy under the Howard Federal Government to demonstrate the value of discourse theory for policy studies. Particular attention is given to the role of metaphor and Lakoff's work on moral politics to examine how the problem of illicit drugs was framed as a prelude to the implementation of a 'zero tolerance' drug policy. Policy documents are analysed to show how language is deeply political and integral to the shaping of the policy agenda. Thus, rather than seeing policy-making as a straightforward process whereby policy-makers come to know about the social problems or the natural world empirically, the approach used in this article indicates the value in investigating the generative role of language and how that informs policy. In short, this article analyses how language and particular frameworks are used in policy-making communities to persuade various audiences to see 'the drug problem' in a particular way and to encourage support for a particular course of action.
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Keywords: discourse analysis; drugs policy; government; moral politics

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University, School of Social Science and Planning, Melbourne, Australia

Publication date: June 1, 2008

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