The Rhetoric of Minority Government

By Derek Wallace.

Published by The International Journal of Civic, Political, and Community Studies

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Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper provides a rhetorical analysis of public policy development in a situation of minority government. In 2003, the New Zealand government, led by the Labour Party, was faced with the prospect of losing a parliamentary majority for itself and its existing allies over legislation its leaders believed was necessary to preserve its electoral support base and to secure national unity threatened by cultural/ethnic divisions arising from the issue concerned—namely the possibility of legal ownership by indigenous Maori of the country’s foreshore and seabed. The paper identifies resources of language and rhetoric which the policy designers made use of during the course of the formal policy development process in the attempt to ameliorate opposition and secure additional parliamentary support. Such rhetoric was far from the deliberative, openly democratic style hoped for by advocates of reform prior to New Zealand’s move in 1996 from a first-past-the-post electoral system to a proportional one.

Keywords: Rhetoric, Public Policy, Democracy, Indigenous Rights

The International Journal of Civic, Political, and Community Studies, Volume 10, Issue 2, 2012, pp.73-82. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 316.661KB).

Dr. Derek Wallace

Senior Lecturer, School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand

I teach academic and professional writing and communication, after earlier working as an editor in a government-funded think tank and an administrator in an international development agency. My research revolves around governmental discourse and policy development, with a particular interest in questions of temporality. I recently published Governing the Future (Common Ground, 2011), an account of governmental instruments and techniques of planning, forecasting, and envisioning. New work turns towards analysis of attempts to govern the past.