Will Constitutional Recognition of our Nation’s First People’s be any more than rhetoric? By: Ryan Mahon

MDIA2002 Assessment 4: Media Analysis 2

Will Constitutional Recognition of our Nation’s First Peoples be any more than rhetoric?


Name: Ryan Mahon (z5076131)

Course: MDIA2002

Class: Thursday at 1:30pm (H13A)

Word Count:  2494 words (Without quotes)

The public debate about the Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders has gained front-page status in print media in the months preceding and following the 2016 Federal Election. The Federal Government is proposing a referendum to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (hereafter ATSI) Peoples as the First Peoples of Australia and to afford protections against discrimination. Protection from discrimination however is already afforded to ATSI Peoples by the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth) and the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 (NSW). Public commentators have argued that Constitutional Recognition (also known as Recognition) would be little more than a token gesture to Australia’s first people, however the consequences of this referendum transcend both politics and rhetoric. Entrusted to the Australian people is something far more fundamental, if the referendum is passed, the changes made to the Constitution could have a significant impact on the future of Indigenous Recognition and Native Title. The Federal Government has been investigating the possibility of setting a date in 2017 giving the Australian people an opportunity to vote on the referendum.

Media coverage of this debate has seen the publication of many (hard) news, views or opinion articles on the issue. Some articles have the intention to simply inform their audiences, however some journalists have intended to persuade their audiences through the use of a wide range of argument types to frame their writing. Print media articles have framed the debate using different perspectives to either support or condemn the proposal to Constitutionally Recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in the Australian Constitution. These articles contain aspects of both hard news and opinion.

A critical analysis of these articles concludes that despite each of these articles taking different angles and having distinct differences on the same issue, they all assume that the readership is aware of Constitutional Recognition, but they may not know what form this Recognition would be in. However, these journalists and commentators assume their readership may not have intimate knowledge of the legal ramifications of Recognition. Some authors have argued that Constitutional Recognition would unite Australia, whilst others have argued that it could divide the nation.

In his article, “Push for recognition a threat to national unity”, Stephen Fitzpatrick explicitly states his central claim, that Constitutional Recognition could lead to disunity within Australian society. The emotive evaluation of the referendum by using the words, “a threat”, indicates an evaluative judgement against Constitutional Recognition. The headline also uses, “national unity”, indicating this current unity would be destroyed if Constitutional Recognition was to occur. The author implies to their audience, the slippery slope of potential negative consequences if Recognition was granted. By using “Recognition” and “a threat to national unity”, Fitzpatrick is creating a direct causal link between Recognition and national disunity. Since the article has a clear central claim, it would be possible to assume that Fitzpatrick is appealing to a like-minded audience.

In addition to his own views and opinions, Fitzpatrick appeals to a notion of authority by quoting Australian historian Keith Windschuttle several times throughout the article. It is evident that Fitzpatrick structures his article by making a claim about Recognition such as, “It poses (sic) a clear danger to political unity” and then justifies this claim by quoting Windschuttle. This appeal to authority referenced throughout the article is a construct of Fitzpatrick, as he labels Windschuttle as a historian in order to appeal to a perceived expertise on the issue. However, Fitzpatrick fails to mention throughout his article that Windschuttle has been widely criticised within the academic community for his belief that many historians had fabricated the extent of racism in Australia during the White Australia Policy during the 1900s (Constitutional Recognition carries seeds of reconciliation by Chris Kenny [The Australian]). An instance of where Fitzpatrick appealing to authority is seen in this extract below,

“Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians could lead to the break-up of the nation. Historian Keith Windschuttle has warned, unless voters are clear that notions of sovereignty accompanying it pose a clear danger to political unity.”

Fitzpatrick constructs a false analogy relating Native Title claims from the 1990’s in an attempt to make a legitimate comparison between Constitutional Recognition and Native Title ownership and sovereignty over freehold land (Mabo V Queensland 1992 [HCA]). There is also the assertion of a possible Ad Populum Argument as Fitzpatrick argues, if Australians were aware of the potential implications of Constitutional Recognition, then they would be against it. This is legitimised by the author attributing the content of the quote to Keith Windschuttle, however the veracity of Windschuttle’s arguments must also be questioned as it cannot be determined whether he is an impartial authority on the issue.

Fitzpatrick then attempts to appeal to the emotions of his readership by providing a confronting analogy of the possible unintended consequences of Recognition. Fitzpatrick wrote,

“ATSI Peoples themselves… use the success of native title claims over the past two decades to plot a campaign for full sovereignty.”

“The broadly held view of constitutional recognition – that it would be a courteous symbolic gesture with no real consequences – ignores the potential for it to become a bargaining position for a local black state to exert far more influence.”

The main claim that this appeal supports is that Constitutional Recognition will create a precedent for Native Title claims with ATSI communities forming their own Sovereign Nations. There is an assumption by the journalist that the Australian people are unaware of this potential outcome. Further to this, an Ad Hominem argument is used, alluding that ATSI Peoples are propagating Constitutional Recognition in order to increase their influence and power. Consistently throughout his article Fitzpatrick implies the ‘potential’ negative consequences of Constitutional Recognition. Fitzpatrick’s article appears to be mainly opinion as he uses only one unverified source (Windschuttle) to add veracity to his arguments. Like Fitzpatrick, other journalists have published articles on Recognition that appear to contain more opinion than they do hard-news.

Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and opposition leader Bill Shorten arrive at the grand final breakfast ahead of the GF today in Melbourne, Saturday Oct. 3, 2015. (AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy) NO ARCHIVING EDITORIAL USE ONLY

Image: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten have taken a bi-partisan approach to Constitutional Recognition, however they have not set a date for the referendum.

Andrew Bolt, a prominent conservative commentator has also publicly expressed his opposition to Constitutional Recognition. Andrew Bolt wrote an article for the Herald Sun called, “Recognition for Aborigines in Constitution only serves to divide.” It is important to note that Bolt uses the term, “Aborigines” an expression deemed offensive and degrading by many in the community. Considering the language used in the headline, it would be appropriate to determine that Bolt’s imagined readership would most likely be a white, middle or upper-class readership who would share his conservative sentiments. It is evident that this imagined reader is positioned to agree with the author as the use of such colloquial terminology could be deemed offensive by someone whose views are not aligned with Bolt’s.

 Andrew Bolt’s article would be more opinion than hard news, as he does not back up many of his claims. At several points throughout his article he makes a non-sequitur argument as he tries to draw links between events and consequences where there may not be any. Bolt suggests that Constitutional Recognition will result in Australia dividing into two-societies. Below is an extract from Bolt’s article,

“It’s apartheid. It is wrong to use the law to insist some of us are First Australians with extra rights because of their ‘race’ and the rest are second- class (sic) Australians.

“Changing the Constitution, as Labor and the Liberals want, means judges could insist this apartheid is our future. Don’t risk it.”

A hasty generalisation or over generalisation of all ATSI Peoples occurs in this extract as Bolt asserts that all ATSI Peoples would misuse the rights afforded to them from Constitutional Recognition for Native Title. Bolt uses the false analogy of apartheid in an attempt to add veracity to his arguments. He is alluding to the possibility for reverse-racism to occur in Australia. Bolt uses “us” and “their” to create an affiliation with his intended readership, a like-minded audience.

In the above extract from Bolt’s article, the agent is identified as, “First Australians”, whilst the affected are “the rest” of society. Bolt argues that due to the manipulation of the Constitution, if it were to be amended, non-indigenous Australians would be disadvantaged. Evident in both Bolt and Fitzpatrick’s articles is an appeal to negative consequences. They argue that Constitutional Recognition is a slippery slope toward Native Title where ATSI Peoples will have the power to create their own Sovereign States.

The debate on Constitutional recognition was recently re-ignited when the ABC documentary I Can Change Your Mind About Recognition was aired. The documentary followed Federal Member for Barton and Indigenous advocate, Linda Burney MP and Andrew Bolt as they travelled to remote Aboriginal communities to discuss the referendum. Andrew Bolt has previously told Fairfax Media he is opposed to the Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous people, whilst Linda Burney has pushed for greater consultation with Aboriginal communities on the matter.


Image: Andrew Bolt and Linda Burney MP on the set of ABC’s, “I Can Change Your Mind About Recognition.”


Paul Daley is critical of commentators such as Andrew Bolt in his article, Indigenous recognition deserves serious debate. Andrew Bolt shouldn’t be a part of it”, for The Guardian. Daley asserts that he is for Constitutional Recognition, however he argues that there has been a lack of public debate on the matter. A dichotomy of values emerges between Daley’s article and Bolt’s article as Daley dismisses Bolt’s arguments through an Ad Hominem informal fallacy. Daley’s counter argument against Bolt calls Bolt’s views and opinions, “indulgent pet assertions”. In addition, Davis criticised Bolt in the following extract,

“Choosing Bolt for the program (I Can Change Your Mind About Recognition)… rendered it a laughably inadequate vehicle to tackle the questions relating to the desire for Recognition within Indigenous Australia – which is where it could impact most.”

 Daley not only attempts to assert a point of view, but he is also attempting to undermine the arguments put forward by other journalists who are in opposition to Recognition. As the article provides background information about the ABC program and the engagement of the ATSI community and stakeholders in Constitutional Recognition consultations, Daley assumes an audience that would fundamentally agree with the referendum. However, this assumed audience may not know how that Recognition should be materialised. Daley makes the presumption that the argument for Recognition, as stipulated by I Can Change Your Mind About Recognition, has been reduced to, “yes (black) v no (white). Although this is a very simplistic and generalised analogy, Daley uses it to criticise the lack of stakeholder engagement by the government.

One of the main claims in this article is that there has not been enough consultation with the ATSI community on Recognition. This is backed by Daley’s warrant that ATSI advocates for and against Constitutional Recognition are not being consulted as stakeholders. Daley argues that Constitutional Recognition does not go far enough to solve systemic inequalities faced by many ATSI Peoples. Daley wrote,

Tens of millions of dollars are being spent on Recognise (a campaign to raise awareness about Constitutional Recognition)… At a time when the Abbott/Turnbull governments have cut at least $550 million from Indigenous programs.”

“Why not reflect the nuance and complexity of argument and concern with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australia by having Indigenous proponents on both sides of the debate?”

Daley attempts to create a direct causal link between the lack of ATSI stakeholder consultation by the government in relation to matters that affect Indigenous communities and ATSI disengagement with the political process. Daley uses opinion within a deeply embedded argument to add veracity to his claims and conclusions about Recognition. Daley cites multiple sources including the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Constitutional law, Stan Grant, Mick Gooda and data released by the Federal Government. Daley wrote,

“The Indigenous voting enrolment rate is 58%. I’m told that as few as 30-35% of Indigenous Australians actually bother to vote. Many I know abstain on ideological/political grounds –  a protest against legitimising and acknowledging what they view as the “settler state”.

Daley appeals to this analogy about ATSI voter disengagement in order to criticise the government. Daley, unlike Bolt does not blame Indigenous communities for their disengagement, but instead has criticised the government’s inability to ensure that all stakeholders can come to the table.

Daley clearly outline his primary claim that the government is not engaging all stakeholders in a proper conversation on Recognition. He uses Andrew Bolt, a conservative commentator who has received hours of air-time and numerous columns on the issue as an example of the issue with the current public debate. Whilst Bolt receives this media attention, Indigenous stakeholders have not been consulted by the government or the Prime Minister’s Referendum Council. This leads to Daley’s secondary claim that in addition to Recognition, treaties need to be signed by the government and ATSI leaders. Daley however, does not assert his secondary claim until the last several paragraphs of his article. This could be because his imagined readership could be one that supports Recognition, but may not know enough on the subject matter to support any treaties.

In addition to Daley, Jackie Higgins (SMH), George Williams (SMH) and Megan Davis (ABC) all appeal to emotion, popular opinion, strawperson arguments and presumptions to conclude that Australia needs to have a ‘Treaty’ in addition to an amendment to the Constitution. The articles written by Bolt and Fitzpatrick have the implication that any amendments to the Constitution would act to divide the nation, whilst Daley, Higgins, Williams and Davis argue that it may bring the country closer together. However, they argue further steps need to be taken beyond the symbolic gesture of changing the wording of the Constitution.

Megan Davis in her article, “Scant Recognition: Have Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples any Reason to Hope?”, explicitly outlines her claim that ATSI Peoples need to be a part of the discussion on Recognition for it to hold any significance. The reader is positioned to agree with the article as Davis speaks from a position of authority. She is a Professor of Law at the University of New South Wales, Chair of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples and a member of the Prime Minister’s Referendum Council adding veracity to the quality of her argument. In holding these positions, Davis’ credibility as a source should be reliable. Davis appeals to authority several times throughout her article including in the following extract, 

“We must be careful to acknowledge that while symbolism is nice and may have some statutory benefits, as Dylan Lino argues, “the pursuit of wholly symbolic recognition in written constructions often neglects valid grievances about how power is wielded by the state over the group (ATSI Peoples) in general””.

Megan Davis appeals to the authority of Dylan Lingo from the Melbourne Law School, Indigenous Law Centre to add veracity to her arguments. Davis focuses on the implications of Recognition for the Indigenous community in her article, whilst Bolt and Fitzpatrick focus on the agents of change, white policy makers and voters. Davis appears to emphasise the “symbolic” nature of Recognition as her imagined audience (the wider public), may be unaware of what Recognition is. It is important to note Davis’ description of Recognition as symbolic is in contradiction to Bolt’s description of it being a gateway to Native Title. Davis spends the majority of her article explaining the need for treaties in an attempt to inform and in turn, persuade her imagined audience into agreeing with her.


Image: The Prime Minister’s Referendum Council including Megan Davis (Front row, 2nd from right)

Polling conducted on behalf of the Recognise campaign found that 77% of Non-Indigenous people and 87% of Indigenous people would vote “yes” for constitutional change if a referendum was to be held. However, polling conducted at the same time showed a drop in the awareness, the constituency has of the campaign. Awareness of Recognise has dropped from 63% in mid-2015 to 51% in October 2016. This data demonstrates that although the majority of Australians are in favour of Constitutional Recognition, they may be unaware of the meaning and consequences of Recognition and how it can be acted upon. This unawareness in the constituency could be a motivating factor for journalists and authors to publish articles arguing for treaties in an attempt to inform the electorate, who could be agents of change through their voting power.

In many of the print-media articles published on Constitutional Recognition, it is evident that the terms, “Constitutional Recognition” and “Rights” are identified as contentious terms. The definitions of these terms had been subject to debate in the sample texts and different authors have stipulated different definitions for them. Some authors construct the term, “Rights” to mean the rights of ATSI Peoples whilst others have constructed the term to mean the rights of Australians to vote in the Referendum and the rights of Australian people as a whole.

Constitutional Recognition as defined by Megan Davies (ABC), Paul Daley (ABC) and George Williams (Sydney Morning Herald) is simply a change of the wording of the Australian Constitution to acknowledge Australia’s first peoples. Andrew Bolt (Herald Sun) and Stephen Fitzpatrick define Constitutional Recognition as, “a threat to national unity”, that, “can only seek to divide”. The view of Recognition that the reader forms is highly dependent on the work that they read as different authors have defined the term in different lights in order to support their own views and arguments on the issue.

In analysing a selection of articles, it is revealed the majority of authors are appealing to an imagined readership that would vote ‘yes’ in a Constitutional Referendum, but may be unaware of the consequences of such actions. Andrew Bolt and Stephen Fitzpatrick both attempt to persuade the readership by expressing their opposition to Recognition as they feel it would be a slippery slope to Native Title. Paul Daley is not only for Constitutional Recognition, but also a Treaty and undermines the critics of Constitutional Recognition, such as Andrew Bolt in order to add veracity to his own arguments. Daley discredits the arguments of Bolt by calling them, “pet assertions”. Underlying all articles was the opinions of their respective authors attempting to convince the readership of certain points. In some instances, such as in the Daley, Williams, Higgins and Davis articles, the opinion was embedded within a hard-news article. However, there were aspects of opinion, as a number of informal fallacies and counter-arguments are utilised in these articles, but the opinions used appear to be impartial and expert. Indigenous Recognition is a passionate issue for many and these authors provided some of the best examples of journalistic integrity through their use of informed opinion and attempts to avoid bias.


Articles Referenced in this paper:

Legislation Referenced:
Related Articles:


Step One: Assignment Four (Topic – The Constitutional Recognition of Australia’s First Peoples) by Ryan Mahon

MDIA2002 – Step 1, Views Journalism analysis 2 (Assignment 4)


Briefly indicate the general subject area of the items you plan to cover and indicate, as best you can at this stage.

The topic that I am proposing to cover in this assignment is the current public conversation around the constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as Australia’s first people in the Australian Constitution.

There have been numerous articles and opinion pieces, which have both supported and critiqued the notion of constitutional recognition. Some articles assert that Constitutional recognition will result in a new range of court cases on native title and other articles have critiqued the consultation community with local stakeholders. I believe that Constitutional recognition would fall within the criteria for this assignment for the following reasons:

  • Items of the following politics related topics:
    • The policies of political parties.
    • Political protest and/or activist campaigns.
    • The performance, character or popularity of politicians and/or political parties (As there have been numerous opinion pieces published by Australian newspapers and publications both praising and critiquing the government’s plan to address the issue of constitutional recognition).


If you anticipate you will be focusing on just a few items – i.e. four or fewer, provide links if possible to this material and very briefly describe their content.

The articles that I anticipate to cover include:

  • Article one: “It’s time for governments and Indigenous people to talk” by Jackie Huggins.
    • Acknowledges that there is still a long way to-go when thinking about Indigenous rights.
    • The primary claim is that it is the responsibility of the government to represent the views of people that elected them.
      • The government needs to open up a dialogue with Indigenous Australians and move beyond rhetoric.
    • Article two: “Australia needs a treaty and constitutional recognition for Indigenous People” by George Williams.
      • The article argues that in order for Australia to move forward and progress as a nation, we need to recognize Indigenous Australians constitutionally
    • Article three: “Indigenous recognition deserves serious debate, Andrew Bolt shouldn’t be a part of it” by Paul Daley.
      • Against the person argument as Paul Daley is criticizing political commentators who are opposed to recognition.
      • By doing this, the author hopes to undermine the arguments of these commentators by lowering the status of these people in the eyes of the readership.
      • The article calls for an open and thorough debate the includes wider community input and consultation.
    • Article four: “Scant Recognition: Have Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have any reason to hope?” by Megan Davis
      • Argument that Indigenous people should accept incremental change instead of what the authors to be unlikely, constitutional recognition.
      • Cites previous failed attempts at constitutional recognition.
      • Generalisation that the Australian people would rather skip, “the difficult part” of recognition and move immediately to a peaceful co-existence.
        • The article argues that this would not happen if a debate on Constitutional Recognition ‘drudged’ up cases of mistreatment and racism in the past.


What sorts of conclusions you anticipate you will be reaching with respect to this data?

I have concluded that, the articles provide a wide range of conclusions about how the government should respond to the issue of Indigenous recognition. Most articles employ certain primary claims and have a privileging of information, in order to convey a particular perspective. Some of the articles begin with analogies, however one analogy is for recognition, whilst one is against it, using a slippery slope argument. The articles have been published by a number of media organisations and they have different objectives and aim to influence their imagined audiences in different ways.

Grey Lines in the New South Wales Greyhound Racing Industry. BY: RYAN MAHON


Grey Lines in the New South Wales Greyhound Racing Industry

MDIA2002 Assessment 3: First Media Analysis Article


Debate about the future of greyhound racing and its place in New South Wales society has gained front-page status in recent months. Following allegations about the mistreatment of animals in the greyhound industry the morality and legality of greyhound racing in New South Wales has become a hotly contested issue in the State’s Legislative and political agenda. The Special Commission of Inquiry into the Greyhound Racing Industry in NSW undertaken by the Honorable Michael McHugh AC QC, set out 79 recommendations as to how the greyhound industry could be reformed. The Greyhound Racing Prohibition Bill 2016 provided the NSW Government’s initial response to the report (Greyhound Racing Prohibition Bill 2016). Public debate about whether the industry should accept the 79 recommendations of the Inquiry or whether greyhound racing should be banned in New South Wales has been a divisive issue in print and broadcast media.

Print media articles have framed the debate using different perspectives to either condemn the Greyhound Racing Industry or to condemn the Inquiry handed down in June 2016. Two such opinion pieces, Greyhound racing: the gruesome facts that led to NSW ban by Caroline Overington for The Australian Newspaper and Greyhound racing industry dogged to its death by ‘social licence’ by Hedley Thomas, also for The Australian Newspaper frame the same issue with different perspectives. A critical analysis of each article concludes that despite the articles having distinct differences in opinion on the same issue, they both assume that the readership believes the welfare of animals should the number one priority in the Greyhound Racing Industry. Neither author could claim that the assumptions in their articles about the greyhound industry widely represent public opinion, however these articles do provide in-depth case studies of their assumed readership.

It is not immediately apparent that Overington is supportive of legislative changes to ban greyhound racing in NSW in the introduction of her article, however the central claim is evident in the headline, “Greyhound racing: the gruesome facts that led to NSW ban”. The emotive evaluation of the industry by using the words, “gruesome facts” indicates an evaluative judgement against greyhound racing. The article was written before the legislation banning greyhound racing was passed into law by the New South Wales Parliament, however Overington wrote, “that led to NSW ban”. By using the “that led”, Overington is creating a direct causal link between the “gruesome facts” and the “NSW ban”. This could indicate that Overington made an evaluative presumption as she assumed that the legislation would pass through the NSW Parliament and the industry would be outlawed.

Overington uses opinion within a deeply embedded argument to add veracity to her claims and conclusions about greyhound racing. In the introductory analogy of her article, Overington is evasive in clearly outlining her claim, instead framing a story then providing the claim almost in contradiction to the analogy she provides at the beginning of the article.

My sister-in-law… A gentler, kinder person you will not find. And yes, she races greyhounds.

I guess I should be opposed to NSW Premier Mike Baird’s decision to ban greyhound racing then. But how can I be opposed, when I’ve read the report into the industry, all 237 miserable pages of it?”

 You can’t read the report and not be horrified.”

This would be a telling indication of who the imagined audience is for Overington as she repeatedly uses “I” and “you”, assuming a like-minded audience who would see the treatment of greyhounds as horrifying. Essentially Overington believes that her readership would agree with her underlying ideology, however she does not assume that the readership has intimate knowledge of the Commission of Inquiry into the Greyhound Racing Industry and proceeds to explain the outcome of the Inquiry in greater detail. The Commission of Inquiry into the Greyhound Racing Industry received evidence of various forms of mistreatment of greyhounds bred for racing and live baiting practices for training greyhounds.

Overington uses an analogy about her sister, “a greyhound trainer who loves her dogs”, to acknowledge the argument that not everybody involved in the industry is bad. However, she later says that despite this, she cannot support the continuation of the Greyhound Racing industry. Overington projects her imagined audience as one that would agree with her on the notion of animal welfare, but one that may not know enough on the industry to be definitively for or against it. Overington uses her article as a vehicle to convince her audience of this.

It is also evident that Overington not only attempts to assert a point of view, but she is also attempting to undermine the arguments put forward by other journalists supporting the industry. Such an argument is that the entire industry should not be punished because of the actions of a minority of trainers. Despite this, Overington is supporting the notion of collective punishment by supporting the greyhound racing ban despite some people involved in the industry being “kind” and gentle”. Overington’s primary claim is that the Greyhound Racing industry should be banned or outlawed in New South Wales. There are a number of warrants or assumed beliefs that Overington takes for granted to support her conclusion about greyhound racing. These include that the New South Wales Government is a legislative authority and their judgements should be trusted. Additionally, that we as a society should not abuse animals and that ethical obligations, like a duty of care to greyhounds, is more important than any potential economic benefit derived from such activities, such as the $300 million a year the industry provides to the State economy.

From this, a dichotomy emerges between the evaluations asserted by Overington and Hedley Thomas as one clearly supports extensive reform, but the continuation of the Greyhound Racing Industry whilst the other article wishes to see the industry banned. However, they both use similar views journalism techniques to convey their points and to attempt to convince their imagined audiences. Both articles try to appeal to emotion as Overington attempts to create empathy from the readership for the abused animals in the industry.

Thomas predicts the impact of banning the industry and tries to evoke empathy for the employers, greyhound breeders, racers and punters involved in the industry and make them relatable to the readership. Thomas is appealing to consequence as he is claiming that the industry should not be banned. His justificatory support for this claim is that,

“An industry worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year is being prepared for the chop in 11 months; thousands of dogs face death; and the livelihoods and passions of owners, trainer, breeders, club officials and punters, along with countess small businesses built on racing’s spin-offs, are being abolished with the stroke of a politician’s pen.”

Thomas alludes to possible negative consequences for animal welfare, people involved in the industry and indirectly local and State economies. In addition, Thomas is also appealing to the popular opinion that politicians are out of touch with society. The Greyhound Racing Prohibition Bill 2016 (NSW), will not become law until it is signed off by the Governor of NSW. However, Thomas chooses to write, “politician’s pen” alluding that it is the will of a single politician to pass this legislation, which in Thomas’ perspective does not represent community expectations. Thomas is predicting negative consequences resulting from this ban and blaming the ban on the will of politicians and not the mistreatment of animals in the industry.

Overington proposes a counter-argument to this point made by Thomas as Overington almost accuses journalists who make these observations as using informal fallacies and over-generalisations. Overington said,

“We’re meant to feel romantic about “the working man” who enjoys an innocent night out at the “dishies”. To my mind, that’s offensive to people on low incomes. Because they’re poor, they’ll overlook what the committee has found… Dead dogs with broken backs, drowned puppies in their thousands.”

Overington critiques the generalisation or the appeal to comparison that authors, including Thomas make by using analogies about, “the working man”, who enjoys going to the races or those people supported by and dependent on the Greyhound Racing Industry. Overington claims that such an assertion should be considered a false analogy as it is an appeal to a stereotype that may not hold true and is deterministic or presumptuous about the characteristics of people on low incomes. This comment automatically assumes that Overington’s readership would primarily be middle-class, as she is linking the terms, “working man” and “poor” together. If her intended audience was lower-class, this could be deemed as extremely offensive to them.

Overington attempts to appeal to the emotions of her readership by providing a confronting analogy about the treatment of animals. Overington wrote,

“One trainer used an upturned bicycle with the wheels removed. He’d rigged it up so he could connect a live rabbit to a rope and use the bike pedals to drag the shrieking bunny away from the starter boxes before the dogs jumped out.”

The main claim that this appeal supports is that it is wrong for people to harm animals. Further to this, Overington uses the slippery slope argument to determine that a line has to be drawn at some point over where animal’s rights should be given priority over their value as a source of entertainment. Of the ban and her final evaluative statement supporting it Overington wrote,

“But it’s really just drawing a line across the carnage. How much horror are we prepared to expect to accept? How much savagery, towards man’s best friend?”

There is an emphasis on the “we”, claiming that it is both the responsibility of the readership as well as government to lobby for the ban, however Overington does not ask the readership to take action on the issue. What Overington is seeking is armchair agreement. Overington also appeals to cultural norms, as dogs are often seen as being “man’s best friend”.

Hedley Thomas, also from the Australian wrote an article on the Inquiry into greyhound racing. Thomas’ article is called “Greyhound racing industry dogged to its death by ‘social licence’”. Thomas’ stance on greyhound racing is more apparent in the introduction of the Hendley Thomas’ article with the headline, “Greyhound racing industry dogged to its death by ‘social licence’”. In his headline, Thomas is blaming the notion of a “social licence” for the downfall of the greyhound racing and not the findings from the Inquiry into greyhound racing. Thomas then continues to question the veracity of the inquiry into the industry by critiquing the opening speech of the Inquiry. Thomas wrote, “It started with a quote that appears to be a hoax.” Thomas attempts to defend the industry, by attacking the credibility of the commission condemning the Greyhound Racing Industry. Thomas also wrote,

“Rushton’s opening rhetorical flourish was the first in a number of misfires, say lawyers and participants, in an unusually run inquiry that saw the senior lawyer on public day one declaring the message to the government about the $300 million-plus-a-year industry was: ‘Just shut it down’.” [Emphasis added]

A subsidiary judgement in this statement is that the money from greyhound racing goes toward boosting the State economy. Thomas attempts to appeal to consequences by emphaisising the value of the industry. While Overington in her article appeals to the authority of the Commission of Inquiry into the Greyhound Racing Industry in NSW, Thomas wishes to undermine the authority of the of lawyers assisting the Commissioner of the inquiry, the Hon. Michael McHugh. This is an Ad Hominem argument, meaning a judgement or critique is made about another person with opposing views to the author. Thomas is arguing against proponents for the ban, by trying to undermine their authority in the field. This is evident when Thomas wrote,

“Stephen (Rushton SC Government appointed Counsel) could have begun with an open-minded view about whether the industry… had a future under a tougher regime.

“Instead, he made it plain that greyhound racing was bad for too many animals. He introduced an amorphous requirement, saying that “a sport which utilises animals cannot operate without a social licence” and declaring the industry has lost this indeterminate thing.” 

A key argument proposed by Thomas is the definition of social licence and how this term has been used out context in order to justify the banning the industry. The term social licence is used twelve times throughout his article and one such example of when it was used is,

1 – “Instead, he made it plain that greyhound racing was bad for too many animals. He introduced an amorphous requirement, saying that “a sport which utilises animals cannot operate without a social licence” and declaring the industry had lost this indeterminate thing…

2 – “No one has ever seen, touched, smelt, heard, tasted or sensed a social licence. No one has ever owned a social licence. A social licence has never been bought or sold, inherited, transferred, copied, faked or handed in …(yet) the Premier has announced his intention to ban an entire industry based on it ‘losing its social licence.”

Social licence, as defined by the Commission of Inquiry is given a stipulative definition by Thomas and identified as a contentious term in his article. This first quote claims that the grounds for the proposed closure of the Industry is because it lacks a social licence. However, the second quote challenges the definition of a social licence. Since Thomas’ stipulative definition of a social licence is something that is non-tangible, then a lack of such a licence cannot be grounds for the Industry being banned.

Interestingly, only Overington used a personal analogy to solidify her argument. Thomas disclaimed that he has a minority interest in a race dog, however he did not use any analogies about his experiences with this dog. This could be since he did not want there to be, or for the perception of bias to be seen in his writing. Whilst Overington has a causal argument where there is a logical flow of ideas, leading to her conclusion to ban greyhound racing, Thomas’ argument does not have the same logic. Thomas attempts to undermine the authority of the Commission of Inquiry and draws conclusions on matters where there may not be logical links. Such an example is his assertion the Inquiry was pre-determined to push for a ban or that the Inquiry was conducted, “without regard for natural justice or procedural fairness.” If Thomas provided evidence to back up his claims, his article could have more argument than simple opinion.

In addition to opinion, Overington and Thomas use arguments to add veracity to their points, however Overington does this to a greater extent. It would therefore not be unreasonable to believe that the basic assumptions that these authors operate under is broadly representative of public opinion toward animal welfare, the general view that animals rights should be protected when appropriate. The two articles take very different view on the Commission of Inquiry into the Greyhound Racing Industry with Overtington saying, “The Industry is trying hard to deny it, but the report has data”. Overington uses this data to add veracity to her arguments. However, Thomas attempts to discredit the Inquiry by saying it was, “Glaring lack of procedural fairness and, at times, a process verging on shambolic.” In addition, it is evident that both articles have a privileging of information, by appealing to authorities either from the Commission of Enquiry or from the Greyhound Racing Industry.

A critical analysis of both articles reveals that both authors are appealing to an imagined readership that both cares about the welfare of animals in the racing industry and are skeptical of the measures taken to ensure the protection of these animals. Overington and Thomas both argue that their articles’ maintain the view that the welfare of animals should be the priority of regulatory authorities, however they argue this point to different ends. With the Greyhound racing Prohibition Bill 2016 passed into legislation, greyhound racing in the State of New South Wales is set to become illegal effective the July 1st, 2017. Underlying both the Overington and Thomas articles is the opinion of the respective authors, attempting to convince the readership of their point of view.


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