Publication Details

Lucas, A. R. (1994). Lucas Heights revisited: the framing of a major scientific controversy by the Sydney Morning Herald. Australian Journal of Communication, 21 (3), 72-91.


A detailed analysis of the Sydney Morning Herald's reportage of the Lucas Heights controversy reveals significant omissions in the cover-age. In particular, I draw attention to the existence of two competing rationalities within the controversy, that is, the instrumental rationality used by the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), the Australian Federal Government, and the SMH editorial to publicly justify the buildeing of a new reactor, and the ecological rationality advocated by the Sutherland Shire Council's scientific consultants and some individuals within the environmental lobby. I further argue that the full ramifications of the SMH's reportage of this controversy cannot be understood without reference to a number of internationaltrade and diplomacy issues which have not been raised in the context of that reportage. I suggest that, because the SMH editorial shares the same instrumental approach to social and political issues as the Federal Government and ANSTO, the power relations at work within the Lucas Heights controversy have remained obscured by the positivistic belief in the social and political neurtality of technical evidence. Inasmuch as such a critique can be extended to the rest of the Australian media, the likelihood of implementing a more ecological approach to the reportage of scientific and technological development in Australia appears remote.