Archives For Australia

When China rolled three warships with sailors decked out in full combat gear into Sydney harbour unannounced, the response was “there’s nothing to see here.”

This, along with the rhetoric blaming the Federal government for China’s first strike against Australia by way of a ridiculous 80% tariff on barley imports, and the verbal attacks against Andrew Hastie, George Christensen, and other outspoken Australian parliamentarians in recent days, conjures up images of Labor politicians with their heads stuck in the sand.

Worse, their first response to China’s first strike, would suggest that China could take half of Australia by military force, and some of our politicians would be out here telling us, “It’s not an invasion. Keep quiet, we don’t want to escalate tensions.”

Right on cue, the mainstream media would be telling us “not to criticize our benevolent Chinese Communist overlords, because they’re here to liberate us, not enslave us. You’re just racists and bigots”.

Not unlike the Nazi extension of Austria. Our elite would follow along with the rhythm of the media’s cadence.

They’d picket China’s critics. Chant virtue signalling slogans, and wave corflute signs from make shift welcome wagons. While their minions denounce, lynch, and prey on dissenters, as their goose-stepping, Christless Communist overlords, stomp in jackboot unison to cheers drowning out the purging.

Embers and ash from burning Australian flags, would be remembered by historians as metaphors for a nation wounded by backstabbing corrupted leaders, cashed up, and sheltered, who, despite red flags flying, preached “there’s nothing to see here”, whilst Australia lay dying.

If this kind of blame shifting isn’t treason, then the appeasement behind it is! It’s is a limp-wristed evasion tactic. It tells the Chinese communist party we’re a country of push-overs willing to let them slap us around whenever they so choose.

Appeasement precipitates an abdication of responsibility. It is one step away from total surrender.

Appeasement adopts the timidity injected into our subjective relativist addicted society by Leftists, who see phobias everywhere, and at work in everyone. Whose schizophrenic obsession with phobias causes us to doubt, question and reject everything about ourselves, while binding us to an inevitable defeat in the face of those who would capitalize on this Leftist induced paralysis, by turning us into an enemy.

Appeasement isn’t the ANZAC way.

Walking on egg shells around abuse enables the abuser.

Recall the words of French ex-Communist, Albert Camus, who, writing in support of the anti-Communist revolt in Hungary, 1957, said:

The Left is schizophrenic and needs doctoring through pitiless self-criticism, exercise of the heart, close reasoning, and a little modesty. Until such an effort at re-examination is well under way, any rallying will be useless even harmful. None of the evils that totalitarianism (defined by the single party and the suppression of all opposition) claims to remedy is worse than totalitarianism itself.

He added,

‘To be sure, the Right is not brilliant. But the Left is in complete decadence, a prisoner of words, caught in its own vocabulary, capable merely of stereo-typed replies, constantly at a loss when faced with the truth, from which it nevertheless claimed to derive its laws.’ [i]

Chinese Communists have soured the relationship with Australia by pouring their abuse all over it. This cannot be wished away, discounted, or swept under the carpet in an act of compliant dismissal. We answer their belligerence with appeasement at our peril.

Healthy boundaries save lives.

Therefore, we add our voices to the growing chorus of those in the wilderness, advocating a correction of this blatant imbalance of power. We call for the redefinition of this relationship, in order to stop Australians from being pushed into the same mass graves, Chinese Communists dug for the Chinese victims of their Marxist infused, Maoist totalitarian regime.

As Camus said,

‘None of the evils that totalitarianism claims to remedy is worse than totalitarianism itself.’ [ii]


References:

[i] Camus, A. 1961 Resistance, Rebellion and Death: Essays; ‘Hungary: Socialism of the Gallows’, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. 1960 First Vintage International Edition

[ii] Totalitarianism: defined by the single party and the suppression of all opposition.

First published on Caldron Pool, 21st May 2020.

© Rod Lampard, 2020

Firebrand Australian Tasmanian senator, Jacqui Lambie joins the Liberal National Party’s George Christensen, and Andrew Hastie, along with One Nation’s Pauline Hanson, and Mark Latham, in being among the few Australian parliamentarians to publicly challenge Chinese Communist interference in Australian society, education and politics.

Arguing for a “Make Australia Make Again” campaign, the senator channeled her fiery speech from December warning about government inaction with regards to the Chinese regime. Lambie took direct aim, and shot straight in the heart of the path of least resistance chosen by The Greens, Labor, and the LNP.

It was a clean shot across the bow of pro-Chinese Communist politicians like Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, Former W.A. Liberal Premier, Colin Barnett, and former Foreign minister, Julie Bishop. The speech was also a repudiation of poorly considered decisions from both sides of politics, such as Northern Territory Labor signing over the Port of Darwin to a Chinese company for 99 years, and corruption brought about by Chinese interference in state and federal politics, evidenced by disgraced NSW Labor senator, Sam Dastyari.

To recap: Andrews bypassed Federal government concerns about national sovereignty and signed up for the CCP’s expansionist “Silk Road” initiative. Barnett said that if he was Scott Morrison, he’d have told Peter Dutton to ‘be quiet’, after the Home Affairs minister, said that ‘Chinese Communist party’s values are inconsistent with Australian values’.

Julie Bishop just this week publicly remarked that what Australia needed in the face of Chinese belligerency was “more quiet diplomacy”. Bishop advocated for an approach that would appeal to the Chinese regime’s propaganda and its blame shifting, stating that the LNP government needs to include an investigation into the U.S and Europe, in order to get the CCP on board with any COVID-19 enquiry.

Without a doubt the official line when dealing with the belligerent Chinese Communist leviathan, from most of our politicians, is “keep quiet”.

This passivity communicates to the electorate that the majority of Australia’s elected representatives are more interested in giving Australians the run around, creating political bull, instead of cutting through it.

Their policy of silence furthers the idea that these politicians are in the back pocket of the Chinese Communist regime. Every time these politicians appear to be protecting Communist Chinese interests in Australia, over against Australia’s national interest, they lose legitimacy as elected representatives.

There is a tendency to play it safe. Up to and including playing the fiddle handed to them by the Chinese regime, where CCP’s belligerence is re-imaged as misunderstood benevolence. Public criticism is deflected – labelled racist and xenophobic. It’s no wonder that the Australian electorate finds themselves frustrated by the silence of politicians who, through a policy of appeasement, appear to put their own political self-interest, first and the interest of the nation last.

“Keeping quiet” isn’t a proactive solution. It’s a policy of surrender. Instead of our elected gate keepers defending the Australian constitution, and protecting Australian sovereignty, we hear crickets emanating from Canberra for fear of upsetting China or failing to be inclusive and “multicultural”.

If Charles Sturt Professor of Public Ethics, Clive Hamilton, is right, and the evidence backs him on this, Australians aren’t just facing a ‘Silent Invasion’[i]; they’re face to face with an elected political class who’ve signed Australia’s death warrant through a policy of quiet surrender.

This is why Christensen’s upcoming enquiry, Hastie’s resolute defiance, Hanson, and Latham’s persistence, and now Lambie’s impassioned speech to the Senate, are on par with the ringing of the Liberty Bell.

In defiance of this silence and its policy of quiet surrender, Australians are being rallied together. Not because of hatred for, or fear of the Chinese, but because of an inherent cultural disdain for totalitarianism; because of a deep respect for the many healthy aspects of our heritage, our laws, our faith, and our people; in defense of our constitution, in order to protect our national sovereignty. To do what our elected representatives have chosen not to do.

As Lambie warned back in December 2019,

“It is clear that China is actively trying to reshape our democracy, and no-one seems to be talking about that seriously enough…It’s about time the people in this place woke up to China’s attempts to infiltrate our economy and our democracy… Both sides of politics need to take a good hard look at themselves and make sure they’re acting in our national interest, which quite obviously, over China, they are not.”


References (not otherwise linked):

[i] Clive Hamilton, 2018. Silent Invasion, Hardie Books

First published on Caldron Pool, 16th May, 2020.

© Rod Lampard, 2020

In a 2016 Global Times hit piece on Australian swimmer Horton Mack, China’s ruling Communist Party echoed anti-Western sentiments straight out of the Tokyo Rose, and Hanoi Hannah, playbook, stating,

1. “We think Australia should feel embarrassed with Horton’s remarks. Otherwise, we would be surprised by some Australians’ sense of collective self-esteem.”
2. “It’s not a big deal to us. In many serious essays written by Westerners, Australia is mentioned as a country at the fringes of civilization. In some cases, they refer to the country’s early history as Britain’s offshore prison. This suggests that no one should be surprised at uncivilized acts emanating from the country. We should think the same way.”

The 2016 verbal attack was triggered by Horton’s criticism of the Chinese swimmer, Sun Yang during the Rio Olympics. Horton accused Yang to his face of being a drug cheat, and the accusation wasn’t without justification. [i]. Yang isn’t a stranger to bans for using questionable substances or hindering drug tests. [ii]

The reactionary outburst from China’s propaganda wing was to be expected. As The Guardian’s Stuart Leavenworth observed, Sun Yang’s wins are propaganda wins for the Communist Chinese Party. It stands to reason that they’d do everything they can to maintain the appearance of superiority over “evil Western capitalists.”

Criticism of Yang was received as criticism of China. It serves the interests of the regime to conflate criticism with racism, and conflate ideology with ethnicity; the Chinese Communist party with being Chinese. There’s political capital in discounting, and filtering all criticism of the Communist Chinese party down to the Chinese people as hate speech, and xenophobia.

This manoeuvring doesn’t just create political capital within China. It’s a magnet for the money, mouths and mandatory hatred afflicting many in the West, who’ve been taught, through the lens of cancel culture -Marxist critical theory – to hate, and doubt themselves, Western civilization, capitalism, Biblical Christianity – their own culture and history.

Take away the ‘Rocky IV’ melodramatic parallels, and what’s left is evidential proof of institutional disdain for Australia from within the Communist Chinese government. Sure it’s just rhetoric, but it’s also an insight into an obvious contempt, and racist-by-contemporary-standards, view of all Australians. Luke 6:45: ‘out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.’ When emotions are high, true intentions and inclinations are often laid bare.

Add this to China’s bullying and intimidation of the Australian government in regards to Australia’s just criticism of the C.C.P about COVID-19. Along with espionage, and its infiltration of Australian universities, the by-passing the Federal government through side deals with territory and state premiers (N.T and Victoria), and we don’t just have reason for concern, we have a problem with China, with an established negative pattern of behavior from the Communist regime as evidence of it.

China’s apparent breach of Australia’s national sovereignty, hostile posturing, and tactical maneuvering, is a clarion call, screaming out for an urgent redefinition of Australia’s relationship with the Communist regime.

LNP Senator Jim Molan stated yesterday, while this won’t involve

‘turning ourselves into “Fortress Australia”, isolating ourselves from the rest of the world and seeking self-sufficiency in every conceivable area: becoming the North Korea of the southern hemisphere.’ It would mean an ‘urgent and overdue correction of the excesses of globalisation from recent decades. COVID-19 has been a big wake-up call. We need to heed its lessons, to ensure that Australia is prepared in the years to come.’

To borrow the words of M.P. Andrew Hastie, we need action on protecting Australia’s sovereignty. We don’t need more politicians, ‘muddled and asleep at the wheel when it comes to Beijing.’

The Chinese communist party’s belligerent behavior speaks against the ‘cosy’ assertions of some in Australia’s Labor party, such as dubious Daniel Andrews, and his insistence that China is benevolent, not belligerent; a friend, not just a customer. Its belligerent behavior mocks the soft politics of Labor’s Madeleine King who acknowledged the need for a debate, but castigated Hastie, and discounted China’s tactics.

The cosy assertions from within Labor don’t gel well with Communist China’s bullying and intimidation of Horton Mack. The hate for Horton intensified last year when he reignited the ‘feud’ with Yang by refusing to share the podium with the Chinese swimmer.

Horton not only won overwhelming support, but a reprimand from authorities. It also earned him a great deal of harassment from who are presumed to be Communist Chinese operatives within Australia.

For brevity, here’s The Wentworth Report’s David Evans list of attacks designed to bully and intimidate Horton:

  • “The family home in suburban Melbourne was broken into amid threats against their youngest son, Chad, who was preparing for his Year 12 exams.
  • At the Rio Games, Brazilian commandos shadowed Mack [and his parents] Andrew­ and Cheryl.
  • The computer system at Horton’s firm was hacked.
  • The family was targeted with death threats and vile abuse online.
  • For nearly four years the family has lived in a virtual state of siege. Supporters of Sun, most believed to be on student visas, regularly bang pots and pans late at night in the alley behind the back fence and abuse the family from the driveway.
  • Plants have been poisoned, dog shit hurled over the fence.
  • A man speaking broken English calls Andrew Horton regularly to threaten his daughter (he has no daughter).
  • Last year, after South Korea, Cheryl was cleaning the family pool when she discovered “a bucket load” of broken glass at the bottom.”

Craig Lord, editor-in-chief of Swimming World Magazine also joined The Australian’s Luke Slattery, in raising awareness about the C.C.P’s alleged attacks on Horton.

According to Slattery,

“While most of Horton’s attackers are believed to be on student visas…The family’s ordeal is believed to be well-organised and part of a systematic pattern of harassment and intimidation directed at perceived critics of China. “This is not an amateur operation,” says a nationa­l security analyst who decline­d to be named. “The Hortons’ story is very disturbing … It says something about the reach of foreign powers within Australia.”

With China’s poor track record on athletes and drug cheats from 1994, 1998 and 2000, Sun’s temporary ban, and suspicion over a Chinese government cover-up, the swimming community is right to be on its guard. With governing bodies in the swimming world seemingly too afraid to stand up and serve the interests of those within the swimming community, Horton’s protest stands as justified.

As far as the bullying and intimidation of Horton and his family goes. This next level breach of Australia’s national sovereignty, by what looks like Chinese apparatchiks, is a clarion call for an urgent redefinition of Australia’s relationship with the Communist regime.

Horton’s experience is red flag for the Australian government. It proves Andrew Hastie right. It shows Australians the reach of the Chinese Communist Party, and the treacherous influence they have on Australian politics. The regime isn’t beyond, or afraid of bullying and intimidating Australian citizens in much the same way that they bully and intimidate their own subjects.

This is a convert, pay a tax or die religion, acting out its ideology of “you will do, say, speak and think what we tell you too, or else!”

As György Lukács, one of the fathers of Western Marxism wrote, “You cannot just sample Marxism […] you must be converted to it.” [iii]

Westerner’s should heed this as a warning.

‘When new gods were chosen, then war was in the gates.’ – (Judges 5:8).


References:

[i] The ABC’s China correspondent, Bill Birtles, wrote “Horton has long been critical of swimming authorities for allowing the Chinese star (Sun Yang) to compete after serving a three-month suspension in 2014 for testing positive to a banned stimulant.’ According to Birtle, Sun claimed that he didn’t know trimetazidine, which makes better use of oxygen and energy in the heart cells, was on WADA’s blacklist (W.A.D.A: World Anti-Doping Association) In an attempt to clarify this, The ABC’s Tracey Holmes, wrote a sympathetic article in favor of Sun Yang. Holmes implied that Horton had an ulterior motive. Holding fire on accusing Horton of racism, Holmes’ infers that Horton is the one up to no good, not Yang, and certainly not the Communist Chinese Party.

Holmes defended Yang’s alleged innocence by stating that trimetazidine ‘has since been downgraded on the WADA banned list because it was found not to be performance-enhancing.’ The ABC contributor than calls out Horton for not being consistent, snidely remarking that although ‘Horton maintains his criticism of Sun is justified. His stance has left questions over why Horton took exception to Sun while overlooking others on the Australian team, who’ve also been caught up in doping controversies.’

In other words, for Holmes, Sun Yang has been unfairly singled out, because ‘Horton hasn’t vocally condemned these [other] swimmers’. Therefore, Horton’s issue is probably xenophobia or racism against Chinese people.

[ii] Sun was handed an ‘eight year ban for his second doping offence – in which he smashed blood vials with a hammer before they could be tested in September, 2018.’ (Holmes claims that only thing smashed was the case that held the vials). (Alisha Rouse, The Daily Mail).

[iii] Record of a Life

First published on Caldron Pool, 3rd May, 2020.

Photo by Johnny Cohen on Unsplash

© Rod Lampard, 2020.

 

Back in early February my family and I came across one of the Australian War Memorial’s W.W.2 travelling art exhibits.  Random find, but we’re always keeping an eye out for opportunities to learn. We’d been out doing our somewhat  PD.H.PE routine (hence the rough around my edges look in the pic). Then wound up viewing some of Australia’s most significant art, created by some of Australia’s biggest painters.

One definite highlight were the Russell Drysdale artworks. I’d come to learn about Drysdale in senior high school. The reason for my initial attraction to his work was how surrealism influenced his style.

Once I realised that what we were looking at were Drysdale originals, I was awestruck. It may sound shrill, but goosebumps and a chill accompanied the importance of what hung on the wall before us. The weight of significance was inescapable. The moment caught me. It wouldn’t be all that wrong to say it was a breathtaking moment. I paused in the presence of history.

‘Soldier’ has many different angles. It communicates a paradox: a cold urgency, and the calm, maddening boredom of war. Drysdale’s use of colour gives off a sense of anticipation, and mystery. Is the soldier returning from the front? Is he about to depart? His choice of background colours wrap around the soldier, as much as they splash light around his relaxed posture. Hands in his pocket, face forward, the impression is that he’s warm, but calm, but contemplative.

Noticeably, there’s an absence of any cigarettes, food or water. This adds to the idea that he is waiting. There’s an innocence, an order in the midst of chaos, almost a sense of relief mixed with anticipation. Like Drysdale is either saying this is the calm before the storm, or the war is over.

Drysdale’s genius (another reason for my appreciation of his work) is how each painting, including the Crucifixion, has a Christian like reverence for life, even in the midst of suffering; a complex, well thought out theological grasp of the world around us. The context for Crucifixion was the Holocaust and Hiroshima. Events relevant to the era he lived in (1912-1981).

There’s a realism to Drysdale’s work – call it gritty humanity, call it an awareness of human frailty  and the infinite qualitative distinction, ‘God is God and we are not’ – a kind of warts and all hope, covered in dry, red dust, with a cautious optimistic attached that looks towards the promise of rain in the storm clouds breaching the horizon.

Drysdale’s art captures Australian identity. Instead of creating a disfigured caricature, his use of surrealism captures Australia’s character, and its free, barren, surreal landscape. Drysdale puts a mirror up to the face of every Australian. Revealing every spot and blemish, and unlocking its beauty. Drysdale tamed surrealism. The pioneer, battler, convict, outcast, wounded, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous. He doesn’t create an Australian identity, he awakens Australians to it!

This helps explain his importance as a painter. Drysdale doesn’t just see and communicate what others have missed. He observes and points to who Australians are, based on what Australians do. It’s because of this that his art, his voice, is a national treasure. It’s why, standing before ‘Soldier’, I was awestruck. Brought to a standstill by the realisation that what was before me wasn’t just a painting, it was a poignant reminder that Australian identity isn’t determined by activists who would rather divide us, than unite us.

As a theologian, I see within the fabric of his work a rich prophetic hope. The equivalent of Johnny Cash’s separation of the sacred from the silly, an honest, raw, restorative, non-violent iconoclasm. The real Jesus confronting the faux Jesus we create in our own image. John 14:6 and Romans 6:4 come alive. The unequivocal: Without Christ, nothing. With Christ, everything.

Drysdale captured the emotion of this dry continent, its land and the resilience of its people like no one did before him, or has done since. His work isn’t drenched in politics or activism; it simply communicates the story of Australia and Australians, going to a depth that words seem unable to go. He ‘didn’t incorporate literary subjects and characters from external sources into the Australian scene but sought to represent people in their places.’ (Australian National Dictionary)

To be in the actual presence of his work is like standing on the same ground he stood on, hearing the same things he heard; being invited to grasp the same appreciation and love he had for Australia and its people. Though the message is sometimes confronting, there is nothing joyless about his work. In my opinion, Drysdale was/is Australia’s best painter, Sydney Nolan comes in at a close 2nd.

Below is some of the follow up work I did with my homeschoolers yesterday.

 


©Rod Lampard, 2020.

So I penned some quick thoughts today for an old friend concerned about the state of things in Australia. I’ll post it here as I have on social media, because it might help put some things into perspective for you the same way it has for us.

Remember Italy has the highest older population in Europe. It also didn’t close down it’s borders until late in the game. Whereas Australia, followed the U.S and banned travel pretty much right of the bat – smart decision.

Australia is also an island continent, meaning the cases we have here, shouldn’t increase much more than they have – despite predictions; it can be contained better, and those who are infected can receive better treatment.

I think the bigger concern for us, is trade, the economic impact – purely because we are an island continent and import a lot of goods. This could be a good thing, though for local producers, though, as demand for their product increases, simply because it cannot be sourced anywhere else.

I’m not saying the COVID-19 issue is going away anytime soon, or that it’s not serious, it is. I’m saying our ability, say as compared to Italy and Spain to contain, treat, and slow infection rates, is far greater. Due largely to decisive, unpopular action early on from Morrison, and his continued vigilance, through working with Labor, and state governments in a “war cabinet” in order to better serve the needs of Australians.

He’s clearly putting party divisions and politics behind him in this regard, which is good leadership.

So a) we are already, as a nation, socially distanced because of our geography b) we have a war chest, so we’re better positioned economically, thanks to good management of the economy c) we have a leader who has taken the reigns and pushed beyond petty political manoeuvring (such as the Greens are doing) in order to see us through.

Strategically speaking we’re doing well so far. Let’s hope and pray it stays that way.

I’m not sold on the “things will never be the same again”. Neither should you be. This was said after 9/11, and sure things did change regarding security etc. But we’re smarter and understand a lot more about our world because of the event – call it beauty for ashes (Isaiah 61:3).

I believe the same Biblical example applies here.

We can either learn from this and improve ourselves, both as a society and as individuals, or fail to recognise what generations before us have. That even ‘in suffering we should aim to affirm life’ (Dietrich Bonhoeffer).

We should recall that deliverance is the point of Easter. God cares for humanity, and has made Himself known through his covenant with Israel and in Jesus Christ. God redeems the irredeemable. We are not abandoned, though we may find Him silent from time to time. He isn’t beyond liberating in the present, having already proven Himself to be Our past and future liberator.


Bonhoeffer, D.2012.  God is On The Cross: Reflections on Lent & Easter, Westminster John Knox Press (p.52)

Photo by Ahna Ziegler on Unsplash

© Rod Lampard, 2020

Australia’s ASIO security chief, Mike Burgess presented the Director-General’s Annual Threat Assessment on Monday. The assessment laid out ASIO’s ‘principle concerns’ about national security, and the issues it views as threats to Australians both internally and externally.

Burgess didn’t mess around, stating from the start that he wanted ‘to move beyond the bureaucratic language of annual reports and help everyone understand the significant threats we see directed at Australia and Australians.’

The director spoke pointedly about the increasing challenges technology posed to the organizations ability to do what it does successfully. Adding that ASIO seeks to find a balance between the ‘need for new powers and privacy’, and how new laws have allowed ASIO to effectively keep up with these challenges, giving ASIO a sharper edge and ability to respond to these challenges with ‘energy and purpose.’

Burgess reminded Australians that ASIO’s ‘number one mission is to protect Australians from threats to their lives’, saying that the ‘terrorist threat remains PROBABLE [sic.]; and that it will remain unacceptably high for the foreseeable future.’ The ASIO Director made it clear terrorist elements are still ‘plotting to harm Australians; some occurring in small cells.’

Burgess noted that equally concerning is ‘the ease with which terrorists continue to use the internet to spread hateful messages, radicalize people to their cause and provide how-to-advice on committing atrocities against Australians.’ He followed this up by stating that he finds the ‘streams of hate spread across the internet by extremists of every ideology’ particularly troubling, where ‘extremists are trying to recruit children as young as 13 or 14.’ He then added that ‘violent Islamic extremism, e.g.: the type embodied by Islamic State and al’Qaida’  et.al. ‘remain ASIOs principle concern.’

Burgess’ assessment wasn’t sugar-coated, he pointed out that ‘there are now more Islamic extremists from more countries active in more places than ever before.’ He then spoke on what he called ‘other operators entering the ‘terrorism arena’, stating that the Christchurch shooting ‘had brought right-wing extremism into sharp focus.’ He labeled this ‘extreme right-wing threat real’, saying that it was on the rise in suburbs where small cells meet to salute Nazi flags inspect weapons, train in combat and share hateful ideology.’

While acknowledging the ‘low capability’ of any extreme right-wing terrorist attack, Burgess didn’t rule out the possibility of more ‘sophisticated attacks.’ Building on this he discussed the issue of ‘state-sponsored terrorism’, espionage, foreign interference, and the threat posed by extremists who are being released from prison. According to Burgess, ‘foreign espionage and interference activities are higher now, than it was at the height of the cold war.’

In his address, the ASIO director mentioned that the organization has ‘uncovered cases where foreign spies have travelled to Australia with the intention of setting up sophisticated hacking infrastructure targeting computers containing sensitive and classified information.’ Burgess also stated that ‘we’ve seen visiting scientists and academics ingratiating themselves into university life with the aim of conducting clandestine intelligence collection’ – adding that ‘this strikes at the very heart of our notions of free and fair academic exchange.’

Media responses to the threat assessment have been varied.

The Australian highlighted chief points made by the ASIO security director. Its headline read: ‘Spy Boss Comes out of the Shadows.’ The article summed up ‘Mr. Burgess’ threat stock-take, and acknowledged how the ASIO director didn’t flinch in calling out Islamic extremism, as being the No.1 concern; that the threat of espionage was far and away the most serious issue going forward.’ The article drew from The Australian’s Greg Sheridan who ‘argued on Tuesday that ASIO’s assessment showed “those folks who say that Chinese government is being demonized in Australian security discussions are simply refusing to face reality.’

The ABC went an entirely different route. Taking the opportunity to deflect the heat away from Muslims and the Chinese, The ABC  appeared to launch an opportunistic and subtle attack on anything and everything right-wing, the 1 billion dollar tax-payer funded organization choosing to run with the headline: ‘Neo-Nazis among Australia’s most challenging security threats, ASIO Boss Mike Burgess warns.

While The ABC was generous enough to note Burgess’ comments about ASIO’s ‘principle concerns’, adding a brief mention of Islamic Terrorism, and tacking a note on at the end, acknowledging China as the ‘main culprit’, the tax-payer funded behemoth chose instead to focus its attention on the small fish. This is despite the ASIO Director having very clearly stated that ASIO’s ‘principle concerns’ are related to Islamic Terrorism, and foreign interference, not just externally, but within Australia, particularly Australian Universities.

Greens senator, Mehreen Faruqi appeared to do the same. Faruqi selectively responded on Twitter to comments from Home Affairs Minister, Peter Dutton, who answered a reporter’s question about neo-Nazism, saying,

“If somebody is going to cause harm to Australians, I just don’t care whether they’re on the far right, far left, somewhere in between, they will be dealt with…and if the proliferation of information into the hands of rightwing lunatics or leftwing lunatics is leading to a threat in our country, then my responsibility is to make sure our agencies are dealing with it and they are.”

The Greens senator seemed to deliberately misconstrue Dutton’s comments, in what could rightly be viewed as an attempt to tar and feather the Minister as a right-wing extremist.

By 9:28 pm on the same day the Greens Senator had deleted her comments, and posted this apology:

Burgess’ delivery of the Director-General’s Annual Threat Assessment was straight to the point. The Home Affairs Ministers, and ASIO security chief didn’t play with semantics, seek to placate dishonest critics, or use the assessment as a political football. They called a spade a spade. It was impossible to misunderstand him, or Peter Dutton. In not passing on that information to the Australian public correctly, and in its proper context, The ABC and Greens Senator Faruqi have placed their own self-righteous, ideological, political posturing over against the safety of the Australian public they are funded by tax-payers to serve.


References:

FULL transcript of Mike Burgess’ Annual National Security Assessment.

First published on Caldron Pool, 27th February, 2020.

Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash  cropped and edited by me.

© Rod Lampard, 2020.

At the end of Isaiah, the prophet talks about the relationship between new life and the heat of judgement. Given the devastation we’re seeing from the immense fires since September in Australia, these verses have special relevance.

This doesn’t justify arson, or the political opportunism seeking to advance, distract, manipulate and use the suffering of others to feed self-interest. The relationship between new life and the heat of judgement speaks to all of us. It’s here, and not with pyromania, or political opportunism that the Word found in the prophetic meets with the pyrophytic.

Horticulturalists tell us that some Australian plants have ‘fire-activated seeds.’ According to Britannica, these ‘pyrophytic plants’ include the ‘lodgepole pine, Eucalyptus, and Banksia. They have ‘serotinous cones or fruits that are completely sealed with resin.’

As if planned to suit the dry, flammable Australian climate, these pyrophytic plants can ‘only open to release their seeds after the heat of a fire has physically melted the resin. Other species, including a number of shrubs and annual plants, require the chemical signals from smoke and charred plant matter to break seed dormancy.’ [i]

This isn’t all that different from how God’s mercy and judgment functions towards creation. The goal of chastisement is newness of life – reconciliation and redemption – to produce new life from the heat of judgement. Not just rehabilitation, but total heart transformation.

As Creator, Reconciler and Redeemer, God ‘looks to the humble and contrite in Spirit, those who tremble at His Word (66:1-2 see also Psalm 51).’  This doesn’t mean trembling before God as though He were an old, bearded man with a stick, looking to control through a crushing fear and paralysis. God doesn’t need tools that would “convince a man against his will.” For He knows all too well that this “man will remain of the same opinion still.” The fears of those who refuse to hear are harsh enough. Humanity is not the hostage of a mean-spirited old man.

Through Ezekiel we can know with certainty that God isn’t a manipulator or deceiver. He doesn’t desire [take pleasure in] the death of the sinner, but desires the sinner’s correction (Ezekiel 18:23; 33:11). Although God desires all people ‘to be saved, and to come to a knowledge of the truth’ (1 Tim. 2:4), not everyone who says to Him ‘Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.’ (Matthew 7:21).

Tremble in this sense, therefore, is a verb, not a noun. It’s decisive movement; to be both moved, and to move. It illustrates heartfelt response based on God’s movement in Jesus Christ towards humanity. He is an event, not an idea. After having heard and responded to this Word, caution gives way to trust. Like eyes that have only known darkness, now adjusting to the light.

Tremble speaks of our immediate response to a confrontation with this Word. It is directly related to the imperative in verse 5, which summons us to ‘hear’. God looks for our attention. He looks to those who receive His Word with joy, and humbly live out their reply. Hearing with reverence, empowers trust and gives reasons for doing so.

Isaiah teaches us that God is not absent. He hears, sees, speaks and acts. His mercy, as the louder of the two, is never far from His judgement! He never is without a plan, promise or pathway to fulfil both. God will keep His Word. He will do this by overcoming His enemies; those who’ve made themselves gods, those who, in His name justify themselves through sterile, empty rituals, or celebrate a return to tyrannical lordship of superstition, animism, and the man-made gods of the Ancient Near East. God’s judgement applies to all who are ‘not hearing; not responding’ – those doing whatever is right in their own eyes, but evil in His; delighting in sin, instead of delighting in the things that God delights in. (66:3-4).

For example: ‘Oh that you had paid attention to my commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river and your righteousness like the waves of the sea [constant; regular; never failing].’ (Isaiah 48:18)

Peace flowing like a river is a promise! It is God’s promise to Zion and those who dwell therein (66:12-13). As is the rejection of God’s commandments, which outline relationship with Him, so is the rejection of ‘the peace of God which surpasses all understanding’ (Philippians 4:4). This is more than a peace treaty. The imagery of living, unstoppable peace is interconnected with a life liberated by the restored joy of salvation, and a clean heart, made right by Christ, in Christ, through Christ, and with Christ.

Hence Paul can write, ‘Rejoice in the Lord always again I say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God.’ This promise of peace like river to all who hear and respond will ‘guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.’ (Philippians, 4:4-6, ESV)

Isaiah notes, Jerusalem (Zion) will rejoice for peace will flow like a river. God will nurture the city and its inhabitants. He will comfort them, as He confronts them. Hearts will rejoice, bones shall flourish like grass and the hand of the Lord shall be known to His servants and His enemies. Divine justice will bring to account those who have made themselves His enemy.

Our hope in the midst of deep anxiety is awakened by the life of the pyrophytic. These plants teach us that there will not just be peace after the firestorm, there will be new life! These fires will end and the rains will come again.

Our hope in the midst of deep anxiety is shored up in the promise of the prophetic. New life springs forth from the heat of judgement. Like melting resin, hardened, stubborn hearts are freed to be free for God.

In this movement; in this trembling where we move and are moved, may heads and hearts be turned back towards Christ, and therefore towards one another, away from bitter blame and political opportunism. May the light of the prophetic meeting with the pyrophytic, bring to us a renewed confidence in God’s promise.

Therefore, may we as a nation sing along loudly, even if with an exhausted sigh, the words from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who after the loss of his wife to fire wrote:

“In despair I bowed my head. There is no peace on earth I said. For hate is strong and mocks the song, of peace on earth, good will to men…then the bells, rang more loud and deep, God is not dead, nor does he sleep! The wrong shall fail; the right prevail, with peace on earth, good will to men.”

It’s a good word for Epiphany, 2020. As the world turns the corner into a new decade, let faith in Christ reign, and may the people say, “Amen.”

References:

[i] Britannica, 5 Amazing Adaptations of Pyrophytic Plants. Sourced, 6th January, 2020.

First published on Caldron Pool, 7th January, 2020

Photo by Sam Wermut on Unsplash

© Rod Lampard, 2020