An alarming address from Australia’s Home Affairs chief has been met with immediate backlash from the country’s opposition. Home Affairs chief Mike Pezzullo has faced immediate backlash in the wake of his alarming ANZAC Day address to staff, in which he warned Australia of a looming war on our doorstep. In a speech entitled “The Longing for Peace, the Curse of War”, Mr. Pezzullo implored Australian diplomats to fight for peace without threatening our “precious liberty” as tensions with China tighten by the day. “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,” he said. “We must always search for the chance for peace amidst the curse of war until we are faced with the only prudent, if sorrowful, course – to send off, yet again, our warriors to fight the nation’s wars.”
Mr. Pezzullo said powers in post-WWI Europe dangerously ignored warning bells from Germany following the cataclysmic four-year war ending in 1918. When Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Party usurped the rebuilding nation and turned it into an invading dictatorship 20 years later, it was “already too late”.
“(Europe) did not heed the drums of war which beat through the 1930s, until too late they once again took up arms against Nazism and Fascism,” he said.
“Today, as free nations again hear the beating drums and watch worryingly the militarisation of issues that we had, until recent years, though unlikely to be catalysts for war, let us continue to search unceasingly for the chance for peace while bracing again, yet again, for the curse of war.
“War might 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, the war might leave us be, forgetting us perhaps.” Home Affairs Minister Kate Andrews went into bat for the secretary after his “strong opinion piece” appeared on front pages across the nation.
Ms. Andrews, who was made aware of the polarising address ahead of time, said Australia should remain “alert but not alarmed”. The Australian’s editor at large, Paul Kelly, said the phrase “drums of war” was turned into ammunition against what he described as a “very balanced and measured” message.
But the tone of Mr. Pezzullo’s address struck a particularly ugly chord with the nation’s opposition, with several senior politicians publicly condemning the secretary’s words on Tuesday.
Labor frontbencher and former opposition leader Bill Shorten slapped down Mr. Pezzullo’s wording as “hyper-excited language”, claiming alarmist messages from public officials only generate more anxiety.
“I don’t understand why they’re using such inflammatory language,” he told Channel 9.
WA Premier Mark McGowan was particularly icy in his response, advising public figures “elected and otherwise, to tone it down” when speaking on issues of war.
“What good does that do, saying things like that? It’s totally unnecessary,” Mr. McGowan said in Perth via The Guardian. “There may be elements in the community who cheer, but it’s in no one’s interest, that sort of language.
“Diplomacy should be conducted diplomatically by people in elected office and also public servants. I suggest to them they don’t say things like that anymore.” Labor foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong also criticized Mr. Pezzullo’s war chatter, reiterating Mr. Shorten’s call for less inflammatory language when addressing geopolitics and conflict with a nation 70 times larger than Australia. She called on the government to give the public an apparent reason for how such remarks are beneficial for the people.