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February 2019

ONLY A UNITED NATION CAN MEET THE CHALLENGES OF A CHANGING WORLD

By | Feature Articles

As we approach another election and the debate heats up, many Australians despair of our future, with good reason.  Research shows that we are distressingly distrustful of one another, of our once-revered institutions, and of governments and politicians in particular.  Furthermore, we are polarised as perhaps never before as social activists, infused across our society, dominate much of today’s divisive public discourse.  The advent of social media has provided a rudimentary global public square, which Australians have taken to using with enthusiasm.  However, the level of abuse, emotion, hatred and splintering that it is producing has led economic historian Niall Ferguson to observe that it is so destabilising it may yet render our societies ungovernable.

Yet there is little narrative around the major and very threatening challenges confronting us.  Economic and geopolitical, these are largely external to our country, but the threats are real and blind to our tribalism.  They demand a recognition of our shared interests, and national unity, if our complacency in confronting them is not to destroy our cherished freedom, harmony and prosperity.  Only when we identify the serious need for a national response to the challenges will we be able to leave behind the attacks we seem to be conducting on one another.

The first challenge is the inevitable global economic downturn, next time Australia will not be immune.  The debt crisis that went within an ace of collapsing the global economy a decade ago has not been resolved.  It has been kicked down the road by vast new levels of public debt, running at unprecedented levels in the West.  We sailed through the past event because of extraordinarily sound public finances, care of the Coalition government, and because China, relatively unaffected at that time, continued buying many of its raw materials from us.

Although significant progress has been made by this government in winding back our annual deficits, we have a debt-to-GDP ratio of about 30 per cent in net terms, not comparable to the horrific debt problems of the US and Europe but fast approaching the point at which they lost control of their economies a decade ago.  Therefore, economic management is an absolute priority.  We want the strongest and most resilient economy we can manage, securing jobs and opportunities, and able to pay for the services and infrastructure that we expect.

Another challenge, and increasing the likelihood of economic trauma, is our move to a completely new global power setting.  We complacently believe the dominance of the West, and in particular its leadership, both economic and military, by the US, will secure our stability and safety.  For the first time we no longer can take for granted that the most powerful nation will necessarily be able to come to our aid, or maintain global order in the event of adventurism by one or more of the new troublesome power centres such as Russia, Iran or North Korea.  Nor can we take lightly the possibility of miscalculation between the reigning superpower and the rising superpower.

It is high time we found a deep sense of national unity and common purpose for the sake of peaceful harmony and co-operation as a people.  Although it has been hardly reported or analysed in Australia, the Americans have effectively signalled a new cold war with China.  Their trade war with China is under way but this is about a great deal more than the belief, both by Republicans and Democrats, that the Chinese are not trading fairly.

Vice-President Mike Pence has charged China with stealing US commercial secrets on an industrial scale, meddling in US politics, seeking influence in US institutions such as universities and engaging in debt-trap diplomacy with the Third World to gain global influence and displace America, particularly from the western Pacific.

We simply are not prepared to cope with these extraordinary new dynamics.

Every major country in the region, including Australia, does more trade with China than it does with the US, and that trade is critically important to global prosperity, including our own.  Yet, strategically, China is boldly flexing its muscle, including in the South China Sea, where it has built military bases in contested waters aimed at controlling the world’s most important sea lanes, and key western approaches to Taiwan, Japan and Korea.  It is plainly seeking to displace the US, with which we are so aligned, as our region’s major power.

This is not just a change in the “software” of international trade and relations in our area, it is a change in the “operating system”.  It poses enormous challenges, the likes of which we have not seen since the 1940s.  If we get this wrong, we will end up poorer, weaker, fragile and more vulnerable.  In the face of this, we need to have a sober, mature and foresighted debate about what is truly important to us, about what makes us different and sets us apart.  In any contest, you need to know what you mean to keep; what’s not negotiable.  But we’re not having that debate; instead, we’re pretending that everything will go on as usual.

This complacency is evident in the decade spent struggling to sign contracts for 12 submarines that we are told are such a vital deterrent.  At the earliest, the first may reach us by the middle of the 2030s, the last perhaps in the 2050s.  It was seen as a priority in 2009, making it all the more staggering that there has not been greater urgency recently, given the dramatic change in our strategic environment.  Perhaps an even more frightening reflection of our complacency is that we have not built the strategic fuel reserves that we committed to having in place under the terms of the International Energy Agency.

We have little liquid fuel self-sufficiency any more, and 40 to 45 ships are heading towards Australia at any given time carrying the vital fuel supplies that are absolutely critical to the functioning of our economy.  Many of those ships pass near the southern end of the South China Sea, where the potential for miscalculation, or worse, cannot be discounted, with an interruption to shipping leaving Australia almost crippled within a matter of days.  It is high time we found a deep sense of national unity and common purpose for the sake of peaceful harmony and co-operation as a people.

It also happens to be the case that these great issues before us must be, and can be, the clarion call for the redevelopment of a commitment to the common good, and the restoration of our trust in and regard for our freedoms, and the institutions that underpin them.  I believe thinking Australians would agree that these are the most pressing issues to address at the next federal election.

Source: John Anderson former Deputy Prime Minister of Australia and Leader of the Nationals from 1999 to 2005.  His Conversations series, made up of video discussions about pressing issues, with opinion leaders from Australia and abroad, can be found at www.johnanderson.net.au

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AUSTRALIAN CHRISTIAN LOBBY STATEMENT REGARDING PILL TESTING

By | Australian Newsletter

Recent drug-related deaths at festivals over the recent holiday period have renewed the push for pill testing in Australia.  The Australian Christian Lobby notes that drugs are inherently unsafe regardless of whether or not they have been tested.  For example, 15-year-old Anna Wood died from ecstasy not because it was tainted, but because of the idiosyncratic effects of any illicit drug.  Illicit drugs remain illegal and should be treated as such by governments and by the police.  Not enforcing the law sends a message, especially to young people, that drug-taking is both dangerous and foolish.

Testing a pill creates a permission structure for consumption of the pill, thereby giving implicit approval to dangerous and irresponsible behaviour which no careful parent would wish their child to partake in.  In any event, as with most ‘harm minimisation’ systems, it is unlikely that pill testing would have the benefits claimed by advocates.   Research conducted during the first pill testing trial in Australia at Canberra’s Groovin the Moo last year showed that only 18 percent of festival-goers would decide not to take a drug which returned an adverse test result.  State governments should continue to enforce the law and reject pill-testing proposals.

Source: Australian Christian Lobby

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WISING UP TO RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS AND CONVERSION THERAPY AGENDAS

By | Australian Newsletter

A blog written by Martin Iles Managing Director of the Australian Christian Lobby

When I was very young, I watched Disney’s Aladdin. From that day, I’d often speculate about what I’d ask the genie in the lamp if I ever found him. How could I eke maximum benefit out of just three wishes? Could I phrase my wishes in such a way as to get more wishes? Or perhaps some infinite benefit out of what appeared to be a single wish? My mind was abuzz with options. Of course, I’d never ask for a million dollars or some specific amount of money. I’d ask for a wallet that never stopped dispensing money – hah! Yes! Clever! Pity the fool who didn’t think of that!

It was around this time that I read the story of Solomon. God gave him one wish which would be His command. Wisdom. Solomon’s request deeply impacted me. It impacted me not merely because of what he asked for, though that was part of it, but also why he asked for it. First, it was because he was humble. He knew that he didn’t know. He knew that he was not equipped to discern and understand the realities of this world. He confessed that he was “a little child” concerning the task that lay before him. But secondly, he identified the particular reality of this world concerning which he would need the most profound help, “to discern between good and evil.”

He wanted wisdom in order to know what was right and what was wrong. This is a key application of wisdom in today’s world because that which is wrong is so often cloaked in what seems right. The deceitfulness of sin means we are sitting ducks without training in godly discernment, insight, understanding and wisdom. We need wisdom when it comes to people, for example. We have all known people who present admirably, but after time, years perhaps, their true colours are finally exposed. Maybe they were never the person we thought they were. Maybe you feel sick to discover they are a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

God’s own advice rings true, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it?” [Jer 17:9] We also need wisdom when it comes to judging ideas. I wrote some time ago about self-esteem, self-worth, inner beauty and identity. So many Christians have hitched their wagons to those buzzwords in recent decades. And now we stand back, wondering why a generation filled with affirmation and ideas of their own empowerment are seduced by a postmodern worldview. Of course they are, it just plays to the script they’ve already heard, taking it one step further. A step we did not foresee, for lack of wisdom.

Telling a child how special they were seemed harmless enough. But too often we fail to discern the deeper foundations behind ideas. The attractive, surface veneer of that which is wrong fools us. Again, we need so much wisdom. But my call today is not primarily for wisdom in relation to people or ideas, but for wisdom in discerning agendas and understanding the path they lead us down. I am reminded of two seemingly good causes being pushed in the public square which have a dark underbelly. One is the reform of legislation to prevent gay students being expelled from religious schools.

The second is the effort to outlaw so-called “LGBTQ conversion therapy.” The recent release of the movie Boy Erased is the latest PR effort here, though media and political parties have been running a soft campaign for some time. Each of these sounds like something we could all support, but the devil is in the detail, or rather the underlying agenda. This is a call to wisdom. The religious schools’ reforms began with a straightforward lie. The Sydney Morning Herald claimed that the Ruddock Review recommended schools be able to expel students based on their sexuality. That was just not true.

But in this false claim was another idea simmering away: the idea that religious schools are expelling students simply because they are same-sex attracted. It turns out that is simply not true, either. There is, however, a section in the Sex Discrimination Act which would technically make this possible, so the debate quickly zeroed in on that. But that section is crucial to the protection of Christian schools, enabling them to operate according to their ethos. It allows them to uphold a Biblical sexual ethic in the conduct of their staff and student body, something which is surely in accord with the expectations of most parents who send their children to a Christian school.

It also includes a crucial protection which could enable a school to teach Biblical sexual ethics without falling foul of legal technicalities, or to refuse to teach Safe Schools-style programs without being accused of causing detriment to LGBTQ students. This is a seriously important matter. Many quickly stood on the landmine that had been laid to blow open this debate. But what is the actual objective? Is it about protecting gay kids from the persecution they suffer at the hands of religionists? No. It is about nothing less than the decimation of the freedom of our Christian schools; Nothing less than an attack on your ability to raise your children in accord with your moral values.

Meanwhile, the conversion therapy debate continues with the release of Boy Erased in theatres. It is the story of a young man whose devoutly Christian parents force him to go to a bootcamp to knock the gay out of him. The practices are abusive, coercive, demeaning and wrong. To the average Australian, the emerging narrative is that conversion therapy based around coercion, electric shocks, bizarre rituals and other madness is alive and well. The term “conversion therapy” itself is enough to conjure up a nightmare. But that is a lie. It’s not happening. The more subtle idea is that this has been a mainstream practice in Christianity in the past. But that is not true, either.

I do not deny that this happened to some, including the boy around which the movie is based. I do not deny that it is tragic, and it should be condemned. I condemn it. But I don’t think I know a Christian who would have experience with any such practices. Overwhelmingly, we couldn’t even have imagined them. Certainly, I know that they are not a problem in 2018 Australia. And yet there is a vigorous push on to outlaw so-called “LGBTQ conversion therapy.” Why? Because the laws that are being proposed use the name “conversion therapy” to capture more than what we see in Boy Erased.

Activists believe that a major oppressor of LGBTQ young people are their parents with Christian moral values. The mere teaching of those values is enough to cause harm to a vulnerable LGBTQ child and therefore ought to be stopped. So “conversion therapy” really comes to mean anything less than positive affirmation of a child’s felt gender identity of sexual orientation at any given time. It could become “conversion therapy” to affirm your male child as a boy if he feels like he might be a girl after speaking with the school counsellor. It could become “conversion therapy” to uphold a Biblical sexual ethic in the family home.

The laws which enshrine the outlawing of conversion therapy are nothing less than an excuse for the long arm of the government to reach into homes and label Christian parents “domestic and psychological abusers” (words taken from the Australian Labor Party’s conversion therapy policy). They would also prevent pastors, counsellors, and other Christian professionals from teaching the truth that change comes through Christ; the very gospel itself. This is perhaps one of the most insidious political agendas at work today, and yet it presents as totally compassionate.

It is no wonder that Solomon later wrote: Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding. [Prov 4:7] Let us be those who are wise, understanding the times in which we live, and discerning what is right and what is wrong in the agendas that are pushed all around us. Hebrews 5 calls us to become “those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”

Source: Australian Christian Lobby

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