The ‘Drums of War’ Are Beating, Australian Security Chief Warns

The ‘Drums of War’ Are Beating, Australian Security Chief Warns
Secretary of the Department of Home Affairs Mike Pezzullo speaks during a Senate inquiry at Parliament House in Canberra on September 24, 2020. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)
Daniel Y. Teng

Australia’s leading domestic security chief has issued a stern warning for the country to be strong and prepared, saying the “drums of war” are beating in the region.

Australian Home Affairs Secretary Mike Pezzullo made the comments in a message to department staff on Anzac Day, April 25. He recounted speeches delivered by U.S. Gens. Douglas MacArthur and Dwight D. Eisenhower.

“Throughout his presidency, Eisenhower instilled in the free nations the conviction that, as long as there persisted tyranny’s threat to freedom, they must remain armed, strong and ready for war, even as they lamented the curse of war,” Pezzullo wrote.

“Today, free nations continue still to face this sorrowful challenge. In a world of perpetual tension and dread, the drums of war beat—sometimes faintly and distantly, and at other times more loudly and ever closer.

“War may well be folly, but the greater folly is to wish away the curse by refusing to give it thought and attention as if in so doing war may leave us be, forgetting us perhaps.”

Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews, Pezzullo’s senior, said the overarching message from the government was to be “alert, but not alarmed.”

“We’re obviously very conscious as a government of what is happening in the Pacific region, in particular, and we will always put Australia first, second, and third,” she told Nine News on April 27.

Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne said the government’s focus was the “avoidance of conflict.”

“Our objective is to ensure that we are pursuing a stable and secure and a prosperous and open Indo-Pacific,” she told reporter Jim Wilson of 2GB Drive on April 27.

Labor member of Parliament Bill Shorten said Pezzullo’s language was inflammatory.

“By all means, we need to stand up for our trade, stand up for human rights, but language like ‘drums of war,’ I think that is pretty hyper-excited language,” he told Nine News.

“I am not sure our senior public servants should be using that language because I am not sure what that actually helps, except cause more anxiety.”

Pezzullo’s comments come just days after Defence Minister Peter Dutton said a conflict around Taiwan couldn’t be ruled out.

“People need to be realistic about the activity,” Dutton told the ABC on April 25. “There is militarisation of bases across the region. Obviously, there is a significant amount of activity, and there is an animosity between Taiwan and China.”

Talk of conflict has increased in recent months as Chinese military jets have made near-daily incursions into Taiwanese airspace.

U.S. Adm. Philip Davidson, head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, said Beijing’s increasing military build-up could see the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) attempt to invade Taiwan “in the next six years,” while some analysts believe the timeframe could be shorter.

Beijing sees Taiwan as its own territory, even though the island state has been governed as a distinct territory for more than seven decades. The communist regime has vowed to bring it into the fold—by force if necessary.

The Taiwanese government has ramped up its own weapons acquisition and production programs, including long-range missile production that will allow Taiwan to strike deep into Chinese territory in the event of a conflict.
Daniel Y. Teng is based in Brisbane, Australia. He focuses on national affairs including federal politics, COVID-19 response, and Australia-China relations. Got a tip? Contact him at [email protected].
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