Date of Award

2006

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Communications Honours

School

School of Communications and Contemporary Art

Faculty

Faculty of Education & Arts

First Advisor

Dr Dennis Wood

Abstract

After a decade as Prime Minister of Australia, John Howard has attained a substantial place in the nation's political history. His success can be measured in numerous ways: four successive victories for his Liberal National Party Coalition in general elections since 1996, five opponents in turn at the head of the rival Australian Labor Party and consistently high approval ratings in opinion polls for his performance as prime minister. He has also dominated the political discourse of Australia. His views and policy positions have become progressively entrenched. This is especially true in the areas of international affairs, military engagement and patriotic causes. John Howard's philosophy and ideas provide the substantial fuel for his dominance but two other factors have produced high-octane achievement: his Government's reaction to the tide of world events and a political acumen demonstrated in effectively communicating to the electorate at large. The Howard Government's ability to harness the power of mass media images (derived from 'set piece' photographs and associated TV footage of the PM) is the focus of this research. Drawing upon evidence from the fields of public relations, journalism, photography and political practice, this dissertation explains the immense contribution of visual communications to the Prime Minister's success. The research has been able to demonstrate that Prime Minister Howard's visual portrayal is thoroughly constructed by the political PR machine supporting his party and Government. It also highlights how the role of pictures in sending political messages is consistent with contemporary political communications practice. At the same time, picture management of such style and scale exploits the modus operandi of journalists based in Canberra and has proved to be a powerful contributing factor in Howard's enduring electoral dominance and polling status as preferred head of government.

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