View from The Hill: For Morrison AUKUS is all about the deal, never mind the niceties


Michelle Grattan, University of CanberraScott Morrison, whose COVID face masks have the Australian flag emblazoned on them, likes to talk about “the Australian way” of doing things and Australian values.

But it is not “the Australian way” to secretly plan, over a very long time, to deceive a close friend of this country, and then to treat them in a most humiliating and disdainful manner. That does not align with “Australian values” of honesty and fair dealing.

If Australia is really surprised an angry French government has withdrawn its ambassador from Canberra (as well as its ambassador from Washington) it suggests it has no grasp of the proprieties of international diplomacy.

To add insult to injury, on Sunday Defence Minister Peter Dutton suggested the Australian government had been “upfront, open and honest” – the French could have read the signals of our discontent with their $90 billion submarines contract, including in Senate estimates hearings. This latter reference brought to mind then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull suggesting to Barack Obama that if he’d kept up with the Northern Territory News he’d have known about Australia’s lease of the Port of Darwin to the Chinese.




Read more:
C’est fini: can the Australia-France relationship be salvaged after scrapping the sub deal?


As recently as the end of August, Dutton and Foreign Minister Marise Payne held the “Inaugural Australia-France 2+2 Ministerial Consultations” with their French counterparts. In the “bilateral cooperation” section of the communique came the sentence: “Ministers underlined the importance of the Future Submarine program”.

It’s telling that the unveiling of the new AUKUS agreement last week was surrounded by more showmanship than diplomacy. The leaders of Australia, the US and Britain were successfully linked for a synchronised performance. But Morrison apparently did not manage to speak personally to French President Macron when a massive contract was being torn up.

AUKUS carries Morrison’s individual branding. It may be the most significant legacy of his prime ministership; however long he is in office, it will certainly be one of them.

It has all the Morrison hallmarks: his own work, conceived and executed in secrecy, kept to the smallest possible round of colleagues, details to be worked out much later, and little concern for the incidental fallout.

If, 30 years on, historians rate it as a stroke of strategic foresight that greatly protected Australia in a time of Chinese potential aggression, Morrison will deserve all the credit. He says he’s been working for 18 months on this – the mustering of a new Anglosphere in our region – and he has managed to pull it off with Joe Biden and Boris Johnson, who both had their own reasons for being receptive.

On the other hand, if after 30 years, AUKUS is judged in the rear vision mirror to have escalated tensions with China to a greater degree than it protected us from Chinese aggression, history’s judgement will be different.

Even as we’re consumed by the short term, it is always worth a look at the long view. Especially when Afghanistan is fresh in our minds – a commitment that was necessary initially, but ended in a fiasco that has restored the Taliban.

Morrison’s planned nuclear-powered subs come without any estimated cost (except they’ll be more expensive than the French ones); or precise timetable (except they won’t be available for a couple of decades); or decision about which boat will be chosen (except it will be American or British), or firm indication of how much building will be done in Australia (except that it won’t be all of it and possibly only a modest amount).

If any of these aspects returns to bite, blame will (or should) rest on Morrison’s head, whether he’s around or not.

Then there’s the French relationship to manage. How long their fury will last is anybody’s guess. But given their interests in the region, it is no small thing to deliver this rebuff in what can only be seen as a crass manner.

Marise Payne may not be of great use in repairing the tear in the relationship. Her diplomatic credibility is one of the immediate casualties of the affair, especially after the recent ministerial talks. One can only imagine how the feisty Julie Bishop would have reacted to being left so compromised.

With Australia’s ambition for a free trade agreement with the European Union in mind, Trade Minister Dan Tehan, flak jacket packed, is off to Paris next week.

Also important is the message that’s been sent to some key regional countries. Indonesia and Malaysia have expressed concerns. The risk is Australia could be seen as an unexpectedly capricious player in the way it operates.

AUKUS is a mark of the supremacy of the hawks in Canberra. Although Morrison said he started planning it with former defence minister Linda Reynolds, it is a precise fit for current minister Dutton.

In thinking about defence strategy, governments of both complexions have circled around questions of long range capability, of which nuclear-powered submarines are part.

But it was not until Morrison, in the lead up to the 2020 defence strategic update, started to push Reynolds and the defence establishment to contemplate the acquisition – and potential use – of such weaponry that the real momentum came. In Dutton, Morrison has a defence minister who not only shares his instinct on this, but has a full time focus on it.




Read more:
C’est fini: can the Australia-France relationship be salvaged after scrapping the sub deal?


Some months ago the secretary of the home affairs department, Mike Pezzullo, himself a hawk, wrote of hearing the “drums of war”. It was obvious well before that Australia was preparing to refurbish and expand its own drum set in the face of an assertive China already targeting Australia economically.

Dutton and others have increasingly dropped the government’s earlier attempt to avoid naming China as the potential enemy, even if we haven’t quite got back to the red arrows from the north of those 1960s depictions.

One problem with the subs deal is that, given the pace at which things move, a China-US military blow-up over Taiwan (if it comes to that) could be done and dusted, with god knows what consequences, by the time the boats are in the water. No wonder the talk now is of leasing a sub or two to fill in the gap, given the inadequacy of the Collins-class submarines we now operate.

It should be noted, incidentally, that some commentators expert in these things say the French nuclear-powered subs (as opposed to the conventionally-powered ones we’re ditching) would be more suitable to our needs than the US or UK boats.

The government says the problem is they’d need their nuclear power refuelled every seven to ten years offshore (because Australia wouldn’t have the nuclear facility), while US and UK subs are powered for their lifetimes. That would not seem a great difficulty, but obviously reworking the French deal would not have delivered the big technological and other advantages of going the full monty with the AUKUS partners.

AUKUS will bring Australia a whole lot of other US weaponry and more boots on Australian ground.

This takes us to the future of the Port of Darwin. Just as the Coalition has botched for years its attempts to get new submarines, so the Northern Territory awarding a Chinese company the lease of the Port of Darwin was a massive snafu.

It’s no good the federal Coalition saying it was all the NT government’s fault. The defence department knew about it and wasn’t worried.

Now the Morrison government has a review of the lease in train. In light of AUKUS, with enhanced military assets in the north and our assessment of the Chinese, it would seem a logical absurdity to let the lease stand. And yet quashing it would be another demonstration of Australia’s unreliability on done deals. It’s a mess.




Read more:
ANZUS without NZ? Why the new security pact between Australia, the UK and US might not be all it seems


AUKUS will no doubt have a good many more consequences. One (not formally or totally linked of course) is expected to be a more ambitious climate policy from Australia, which Joe Biden has been urging on the Morrison government for the Glasgow climate conference.

Morrison in coming weeks will want to deliver to Biden (and Johnson), although we don’t know the extent of that delivery, or whether Barnaby Joyce will find himself struggling with any collateral fallout among his own people.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

ANZUS without NZ? Why the new security pact between Australia, the UK and US might not be all it seems


Alexander Gillespie, University of WaikatoWe live, to borrow a phrase, in interesting times. The pandemic aside, relations between the superpowers are tense. The sudden arrival of the new AUKUS security agreement between Australia, the US and UK simply adds to the general sense of unease internationally.

The relationship between America and China had already deteriorated under the presidency of Donald Trump and has not improved under Joe Biden. New satellite evidence suggests China might be building between 100 and 200 silos for a new generation of nuclear intercontinental missiles.

At the same time, the US relationship with North Korea continues to smoulder, with both North and South Korea conducting missile tests designed to intimidate.

And, of course, Biden has just presided over the foreign policy disaster of withdrawal from Afghanistan. His administration needs something new with a positive spin.

Enter AUKUS, more or less out of the blue. So far, it is just a statement launched by the member countries’ leaders. It has not yet been released as a formal treaty.

The Indo-Pacific pivot

The new agreement speaks of “maritime democracies” and “ideals and shared commitment to the international rules-based order” with the objective to “deepen diplomatic, security and defence co-operation in the Indo-Pacific region”.

“Indo-Pacific region” is code for defence against China, with the partnership promising greater sharing and integration of defence technologies, cyber capabilities and “additional undersea capabilities”. Under the agreement, Australia also stands to gain nuclear-powered submarines.




Read more:
Australia to build nuclear submarines in a new partnership with the US and UK


To demonstrate the depth of the relationship, the agreement highlights how “for more than 70 years, Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States have worked together, along with other important allies and partners”.

At which point New Zealand could have expected a drum roll, too, having only just marked the 70th anniversary of the ANZUS agreement. That didn’t happen, and New Zealand was conspicuously absent from the choreographed announcement hosted by the White House.

Having remained committed to the Five Eyes security agreement and having put boots on the ground in Afghanistan for the duration, “NZ” appears to have been taken out of ANZUS and replaced with “UK”.

Don’t mention the nukes

The obvious first question is whether New Zealand was asked to join the new arrangement. While Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has welcomed the new partnership, she has confirmed: “We weren’t approached, nor would I expect us to be.”

That is perhaps surprising. Despite problematic comments by New Zealand’s trade minister about Australia’s dealings with China, and the foreign minister’s statement that she “felt uncomfortable” with the expanding remit of the Five Eyes, reassurances by Ardern about New Zealand’s commitment should have calmed concerns.




Read more:
Why nuclear submarines are a smart military move for Australia — and could deter China further


One has to assume, therefore, that even if New Zealand had been asked to join, it might have chosen to opt out anyway. There are three possible explanations for this.

The first involves the probable provision to Australia of nuclear-powered military submarines. Any mention of nuclear matters makes New Zealand nervous. But Australia has been at pains to reiterate its commitment to “leadership on global non-proliferation”.

Similar commitments or work-arounds could probably have been made for New Zealand within the AUKUS agreement, too, but that is now moot.

The dragon in the room

The second reason New Zealand may have declined is because the new agreement is perceived as little more than an expensive purchasing agreement for the Australian navy, wrapped up as something else.

This may be partly true. But the rewards of the relationship as stated in the initial announcement go beyond submarines and look enticing. In particular, anything that offers cutting-edge technologies and enhances the interoperability of New Zealand’s defence force with its allies would not be lightly declined.




Read more:
ANZUS at 70: Together for decades, US, Australia, New Zealand now face different challenges from China


The third explanation could lie in an assumption that this is not a new security arrangement. Evidence for this can be seen in the fact that New Zealand is not the only ally missing from the new arrangement.

Canada, the other Five Eyes member, is also not at the party. Nor are France, Germany, India and Japan. If this really was a quantum shift in strategic alliances, the group would have been wider — and more formal than a new partnership announced at a press conference.

Nonetheless, the fact that New Zealand’s supposedly extra-special relationship with Britain, Australia and America hasn’t made it part of the in-crowd will raise eyebrows. Especially while no one likes to mention the elephant – or should that be dragon? – in the room: New Zealand’s relationship with China.The Conversation

Alexander Gillespie, Professor of Law, University of Waikato

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The AUKUS pact, born in secrecy, will have huge implications for Australia and the region


Patricia A. O’Brien, Georgetown UniversityIt has been announced the US, Australia and the UK are forming a new security partnership to be known as AUKUS.

This alliance, announced by the leaders of the three countries, throws an entirely different light on the recent 70th anniversary of the ANZUS Treaty and indeed key defence relationships of the past seven decades.

Dubbed by some as ANZUS 2.0, AUKUS is a trilateral agreement, but one that notably excludes New Zealand. With the UK’s inclusion instead, this agreement shifts the ANZUS Treaty’s Pacific Ocean focus to one that encompasses the Indo-Pacific and Atlantic Oceans too. It is an arrangement with global reach and profound, long-term implications.

There is much to unpack from this far-reaching announcement. It was only known publicly that a major announcement was coming less than 24 hours beforehand. In the slick promotional video that preceded remarks by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and finally US President Joe Biden, the fact that the three nations are democracies was touted as a defining and unifying feature.

Yet the publics of the three nations were kept in the dark about what was afoot, and were instead presented a fait d’accompli. “AUKUS is born”, Morrison declared. Few knew it was even in gestation.

The secrecy surrounding AUKUS is troubling given its significance, especially for Australia. These stakes were clearly demarcated in today’s White House press briefing ahead of the formal leaders’ announcement. AUKUS in its scope and aims:

binds decisively Australia to the United States and Great Britain for generations.

To further underscore the significance for Australia, the US spokesperson described AUKUS as:

the biggest strategic step Australia has taken in generations.

The most significant component of AUKUS announced so far is that Australia will acquire nuclear-powered submarines. The US and the UK have shared this nuclear technology in an arrangement dating back to 1958.




Read more:
Why nuclear submarines are a smart military move for Australia — and could deter China further


Over the next 18 months, the US and UK will “support Australia’s desire to acquire nuclear-powered submarines”. Adelaide will soon see technical and strategic teams from all three countries working on building the subs.

These submarines will allow Australia to “deploy for longer periods”, are “quieter”, “much more capable” and will allow “us to sustain and to improve deterrence across the Indo-Pacific”, the White House said. All three leaders were at pains to stress Australia has no intention of pursuing nuclear weapons, though these capabilities will necessarily develop along with the limited AUKUS aims of propulsion.

Now Australia’s pre-existing sub-building deal with France is destined for the scrap heap, but not without a hefty bill for Australian taxpayers, it has been reported.

The other elements of AUKUS include enhancing joint capabilities, deeper military interoperability, “new architectures” of meetings and engagements between defence and foreign policy officials, and to “spur co-operation across many new and emerging arenas” – cyber, applied AI, quantum technologies and “some undersea capabilities”.

The need for this immense shift in Australia’s defence capabilities and the genesis of the AUKUS partnership were not specified in today’s announcement. Biden came closest to articulating AUKUS’s intent when he said it will help “better meet the threats of today and tomorrow”. There is no doubt what has sparked this strategic recalibration: the rise of China.

In addition to exponentially increasing Australia’s military capabilities, the overarching rationale of AUKUS is to link existing allies and partners together. This will in turn create a global web of security arrangements to combat China’s massive and rapid global expansion. This is why the focus of AUKUS is on the Indo-Pacific, which stretches from the eastern Pacific to the east coast of Africa.

Many questions remain about AUKUS. One is why did the UK return to the Indo-Pacific arena in this way, having essentially left it, in strategic terms, in the 1950s?

According to Johnson’s brief remarks today, it joined to impart knowledge about nuclear submarine technology, “acquired over generations”, to Australia. This will have a two-fold benefit, he said. It will “preserve security and stability in the Indo-Pacific” while “creating hundreds of highly skilled jobs across the United Kingdom”. The UK’s involvement in AUKUS is its most significant enaction of its new Indo-Pacific strategic “tilt” set out in its 2021 defence and foreign policy review.

One of the many questions arising from the AUKUS announcement is why the UK is re-engaging in the Indo-Pacific.
Alberto Pezzali/AP/AAP

And where does AUKUS leave New Zealand? Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern reassured New Zealanders today that she “welcomed” greater UK and US involvement in the Indo-Pacific region, a security outlook she has clearly adhered her nation to.

But beneath statements insisting that AUKUS does not interfere with New Zealand’s existing security arrangements, its exclusion from this security partnership has set it on a singular course.

AUKUS’s initial purpose of building Australia a fleet of nuclear-powered subs assures this. As Ardern emphasised,

New Zealand’s position in relation to the prohibition of nuclear-powered vessels in our waters remains unchanged.

There is no doubt China will react strongly to this news and, given its recent conduct towards Australia, punitively in terms of trade. The implications are likely to be manifold.

How Australians respond to the nation’s course set today without their knowledge or consultation will be interesting to gauge. If 70 years of living with the ANZUS treaty is any indication, reactions will be strong and sharply divided.The Conversation

Patricia A. O’Brien, Visiting Fellow, Department of Pacific Affairs, Australian National University, and Adjunct Professor, Asian Studies Program, Georgetown University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Australia to build nuclear submarines in a new partnership with the US and UK


original.
AAP/EPA/Oliver Contreras

Michelle Grattan, University of CanberraAustralia will build a fleet of nuclear submarines as part of a new security partnership with the United States and United Kingdom, dubbed AUKUS.

The dramatic move is a response to the growing threat of China and will be seen as provocative by that country.

In an early morning address at Parliament House, part of a three-way virtual appearance with US President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australia, the US and the UK had “always seen the world through a similar lens”.

“Our world is becoming more complex, especially here in our region, the Indo-Pacific.

“This affects us all. The future of the Indo-Pacific will impact all our futures. To meet these challenges, to help deliver the security and stability our region needs, we must now take our partnership to a new level.”

The submarines will be built in Adelaide, in co-operation with the UK and US.

Morrison stressed “Australia is not seeking to acquire nuclear weapons or establish a civil nuclear capability”.

There will be an 18-month long effort by the three countries to develop the best plan to deliver the new capability. In doing this, expertise from the US and the UK will be used.

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese indicated Labor’s general support for the submarines and sought a bipartisan mechanism for oversight of the process.

In a statement Morrison, Biden and Johnson said: “Through AUKUS, our governments will strengthen the ability of each to support our security and defence interests, building on our longstanding and ongoing bilateral ties.

“We will promote deeper information and technology sharing. We will foster deeper integration of security and defence-related science, technology, industrial bases, and supply chains. And in particular, we will significantly deepen co-operation on a range of security and defence capabilities.”

The leaders said: “The endeavour we launch today will help sustain peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.”

American nuclear-powered submarines visit Australia.

Currently, Australia has a $90 billion contract with the French for conventionally-powered submarines. This has been controversial because of the long lead time and escalating costs. Cancellation costs will run into billions of dollars.

The French government has reacted angrily. It declared the Australian decision to halt the current “Future Submarine Program” was “contrary to the letter and spirit of the co-operation that prevailed between France and Australia, based on a relationship of political trust as well as on the development of a very high-level defence industrial and technological base in Australia”.

In a statement Jean-Yves Le Drian, minister for Europe and foreign affairs, and Florence Parly, minister of the armed forces, said: “The American choice to exclude a European ally and partner such as France from a structuring partnership with Australia, at a time when we are facing unprecedented challenges in the Indo-Pacific region, whether in terms of our values or in terms of respect for multilateralism based on the rule of law, shows a lack of coherence that France can only note and regret.”

A former French ambassador to the US, Gérard Araud, tweeted: “The world is a jungle. France has just been reminded of this bitter truth by the way the US and the UK have stabbed her in the back in Australia”.

Former Prime Minister Paul Keating criticised the announcement as representing a further loss of Australian sovereignty.

The agreement for Australia “to move to a fleet of US supplied nuclear submarines will amount to a lock-in of Australian military equipment and thereby forces, with those of the United States with only one underlying objective: the ability to act collectively in any military engagement by the United States against China” Keating said.

“This arrangement would witness a further dramatic loss of Australian sovereignty, as material dependency on the United States robbed Australia of any freedom or choice in any engagement Australia may deem appropriate,” he said.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said under that under that country’s legislation, the nuclear submarines would not be able to visit there.

Senate crossbencher Rex Patrick, a former submariner, said the decision on nuclear submarines should come under rigorous parliamentary scrutiny.

“I’ve been a strong critic of the French submarine deal. The delays and cost overruns are huge and unacceptable. But we have to be careful we don’t move from one massive procurement disaster into something else that hasn’t been thought through properly.”

Patrick said that “acquiring, operating and maintaining a nuclear submarine fleet without a domestic nuclear power industry is a challenge that must not be underestimated”.

Greens leader Adam Bandt attacked the decision, saying it was “a dangerous move that makes our country less safe by putting floating Chernobyls in the heart of our major cities, increasing the risk of conflict in our region and putting Australia in the firing line”.

He said the government was trying to distract from its failures by preparing for a khaki election.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Cricket: Australia – Australia Defeat India 4 Zip and the Big Bash 2012 Final


What a great day for Australian Cricket, with Australia wrapping up the test series against India 4 – 0 and the hugely successful 1st season of the Twenty20 Big Bash being completed tonight, with the Sydney Sixers defeating the Perth Scorchers.

It has been a massive day of cricket, with Michael Clarke, Ricky Ponting, David Warner, Peter Siddle and Co, playing great cricket in the series win against India. Who will forget the massive triple century of Michael Clarke, the partnerships of Clarke and Ponting, the dominance of Australia’s bowling attack and the capitulation of the Indian team under relentless pressure from Australia. Both Shaun Marsh and Brad Haddin should be concerned about their immediate future in the team, with poor performances by them both throughout the series. Both Ponting and Michael Hussey silenced their critics with very solid performances in the series and David Warner has cemented his place in the team for the time being.

India however were very disappointing and several big name players should be looking at retirement – if not, they should perhaps be replaced. All the big names struggled, none more than Dravid and Laxman. Even Sachin Tendulkar struggled and at no time did it seem likely he would make his 100th international hundred.

The Big Bash Final win for the Sydney Sixers was set up right from the beginning with a brilliant first over by Brett Lee. It was a brilliant opening partnership between Moses Henriques and Steve O’Keefe that ensured the Sixers could chase down the total set by the Scorchers comfortably.

For more visit:
http://www.cricket.com.au/news-list/2012/1/28/australia-seal-whitewash

http://www.bigbash.com.au/
http://www.espncricinfo.com/big-bash-league-2011/content/story/551379.html

Vietnam’s Temporary Release of Priest Goes against Trend


Government granting leave to Father Ly is said to be tightening control overall.

DUBLIN, March 30 (CDN) — Vietnamese officials have in recent months tightened control over those they regard as dissidents, and the temporary release of Catholic priest Thadeus Nguyen van Ly on March 15 was a rare exception, according to Amnesty International (AI).

Officials on March 15 released Ly, now 63, from prison for one year so that he could receive medical treatment.

An outspoken advocate for religious freedom, Ly was sentenced to eight years in prison in March 2007 for “spreading propaganda” against the state. He had previously received 10- and 15-year sentences on similar charges.

“The release of Father Ly appears to be a one-off, related to his health,” Brittis Edman, Asia researcher for AI, told Compass by phone.

Human rights lawyer Le Thi Cong Nhan was released on March 6 after serving a three years in prison.  Officials have sentenced 16 other “perceived dissidents” since last September.

“Those 16 are people whose names are in the public domain,” Edman added. “There are probably others we’re not aware of.”

Edman confirmed that Ly was recently diagnosed with a brain tumor, although few details are available on the prognosis or the availability of treatment. Fellow priests told the Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN) that Ly had suffered three strokes in May, September and November of last year, partially paralyzing his right arm and leg and making it difficult for him to walk, write or feed himself.

Following urgent requests from diocesan priests and family members, officials on March 14 granted Ly one year’s reprieve from his jail sentence. On March 15 they transported him by ambulance from Ba Sao prison camp in northern Ha Nam province to a home for retired priests in Hue, central Vietnam.

Under pressure from international advocacy groups including AI, the government may have granted Ly’s release to ward off potential embarrassment should he die in prison, Edman said.

“He’s a very public figure, and the Vietnamese government is not comfortable with being criticized.”

Religious Rights Campaigner

Ly was first jailed for one year in 1977 when he distributed a Church statement decrying the arrest of Buddhist monks and the treatment of Catholics in Vietnam, according to an AI report.

This was followed in December 1983 by a 10-year sentence served from the time of his arrest in May 1983 until his early release in July 1992. Prior to his arrest, Ly wrote a seven-point document urging officials to cease harassing Christians and announced that he was willing to be martyred for his faith.

In November 1994 Ly issued a “Ten Point Statement on the State of the Catholic Church in the Hue Diocese,” criticizing the lack of adequate training for would-be priests, the state’s interference in church teachings and its appropriation of church property.

He also became an advisory board member of the U.S.-based Committee for Religious Freedom in Vietnam (CRFV), according to AI.

In 1999, authorities objected when Ly coordinated relief projects for flood victims in partnership with CRFV. In November 2000, while U.S. President Bill Clinton and a CRFV delegation were in Vietnam, Ly reissued his ten-point statement and later made further appeals for religious freedom.

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom in February 2001 invited Ly to address a hearing on Vietnam. Though unable to attend, Ly submitted written testimony stating that the Vietnamese government had “stripped all churches of their independence and freedom” and urging that the U.S. Congress not ratify a long-negotiated U.S.-Vietnam Bilateral Trade Agreement.

State-owned media then accused Ly of inviting “foreign hostile forces to intervene in Vietnam’s internal affairs” and inciting Catholic followers against the state.

Officials in May 2001 seized Ly during a church service and sentenced him to 15 years in prison for allegedly spreading anti-government propaganda. He was released under house arrest in February 2005 but arrested again in February 2007 and sentenced to eight years for organizing a pro-democracy event.

When the government released over 5,000 prisoners to mark Vietnam’s National Day last Sept. 2, Ly was omitted from the list despite vigorous international campaigns for his release. In a state media report quoted by UCAN, Vice Minister of Public Security Le The Tiem declared that the priest was “still in good enough health to serve his sentence.”

Report from Compass Direct News 

Indian church planter kidnapped and imprisoned


A church planter in Orissa State, India, who was on his way to a training meeting, has been kidnapped and imprisoned by local authorities, reports Michael Ireland, chief correspondent, ASSIST News Service.

According to Empart, an international non-profit church planting organization, Kusulia is a church planter in Orissa, faithfully serving the Lord in his tribal village.

Empart says Kusulia has been not only sharing the gospel with the people in his village but also helping the local community with health education and teaching children to read and write.

On January 29, 2010 Kusulia was traveling to a local monthly meeting with other church planters.

As he got off the bus, he was confronted by the local police. “Are you Kusulia?” they asked. As soon as he responded “Yes”, they arrested him and threw him into a police vehicle.

Kusulia asked police: “Why are you doing this?”

The Empart report says Kusulia asked again and again, explaining that he was a Christian worker and showing them his Bible.

An officer told Kusulia: "We know you are a terrorist…keep quiet.”

In recent times, anti-Christian groups in Orissa have been making false accusations against Christians by using new government terrorist laws to persecute them.

Once a person is accused of being a terrorist, they have very few legal privileges and are treated very badly. Most lawyers are unwilling to help a "terrorist."

The meeting Kusulia was due to attend was with other church planters in the area who work with Empart.

When Kusulia failed to attend the meeting, Empart leaders realized that something was terribly wrong.

Empart says none of the workers would ever miss an opportunity to train, worship together and support each other, unless they were in serious danger.

They soon learned that someone had filed a false report with the police, claiming that Kusulia was a member of a terrorist group called Naxalite (an Indian Maoist group).

Empart leaders have been to the police station and made every effort to prove that Kusulia is not a terrorist, but the police are refusing to accept their evidence.

Kusulia is still in police custody.

Empart says: "Please pray for his protection and peace for his family and church. Please also pray for the protection of other church planters in Orissa from similar allegations and persecution so they can boldly proclaim God’s word to those who have never heard the gospel. Like it says in Acts 4:29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.

Empart works with local church planters in transforming un-reached communities in Asia by training local people to start churches in their local communities.

"Our vision is to plant 100,000 churches in un-reached areas by 2030- restoring, releasing and resourcing them to fulfill the Great Commission, through partnership with the global body of Christ, the group says.

Since 1998, Empart has been changing lives for eternity. Millions of unloved children, desperate women and disadvantaged communities are finding hope and hearing about Jesus for the first time through Children’s Homes, Literacy Programs and micro business training run through local churches.

The group adds that the legal cost of trying to prove the innocence of its fellow Christians in these situations is high.

Report from the Christian Telegraph 

Evangelical Christians at risk from Russian government


Evangelical Christians may be at risk in Russia as Orthodoxy gains more and more governmental favor, reports MNN.

The Liberty of Conscience Institute recently discovered that the Russian government is cozying up to the Russian Orthodox Church in ways that may inhibit religious freedoms. Joel Griffith of Slavic Gospel Association says there is reason to be concerned.

"Russia’s president [has] taken the initiative to permanently assign orthodox priest army units, and they’re also wanting to introduce religious education classes at state schools."

The more power the Orthodox Church gains, the more risk there will be to the religious freedoms of all minority religions, no less evangelical Christianity. Griffith says history proves that evangelical Christians may well be targeted if such legislation is passed. A sizeable evangelical movement would well be viewed as an encroachment on Orthodox territory, and would consequently not be taken lightly.

If this is the case, evangelical movement could be very much hindered in Russia. As it now stands, some evangelical churches experience virtually no opposition at all from the government, while others experience a great deal. If a national legislation should pass, opposition will likely extend to every evangelical church.

"If this becomes a policy of the national government to freeze out evangelicals, obviously that’s going to have a pretty big impact not only on freedom of worship," cautions Griffith, "but also on the proclamation of the Gospel."

Fortunately, in order for any such government-orthodox partnership to be enforced via the military and education, it would have to pass through a significant number of hoops. As it stands, this sort of breach on the separation of church and state goes directly against the Russian constitution, not to mention Western ideals.

"The West is concerned with human rights and the freedom of conscience and the freedom of worship," notes Griffith. "And officially under the constitution, there’s supposed to be freedom of religion and freedom of worship in Russia. So any moves to do this certainly fly in the face of what the Russian constitution would say."

Unfortunately, many Russians consider Orthodoxy as a given. Historically, the Orthodox Church has, more often than not, been considered an arm of the Russian government. Pray that the obvious infringement of government policy on the basis of the constitution would be enough to stop Orthodox alliances with the Russian government from being nationally enforced.

Slavic Gospel Association helps equip churches in Russia with training and materials to prepare them for every situation as evangelicals.

Report from the Christian Telegraph 

Australian Territory Approves Same-Sex Civil Ceremonies


By Patrick B. Craine

CANBERRA, Australia, November 11, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) has legalized civil partnership ceremonies for homosexuals.

Same-sex couples in the ACT have been able to register their union since last year, but were not permitted a ceremony.

The legislature of the territory, where the nation’s parliament is located, passed the bill on Wednesday, following an amendment banning opposite-sex couples from obtaining the civil unions.  The bill was moved by the ACT’s Greens party.

The ACT’s amendment was passed so as to satisfy federal requirements that such unions not mimic marriage.

"We understand that this is not same-sex marriage," said Shane Rattenbury, the Greens member who drafted the bill.  "This legislation is another step along the road to full equality for same-sex couples in Australia, and we are delighted that the assembly has passed it today."

The federal Commonwealth Parliament, which has the power to override legislation passed in the country’s two territories, has strongly opposed same-sex "marriage," and the ACT legislature has been fighting with them for same-sex civil unions since 2006.

That year, the ACT passed legislation approving same-sex civil unions, but their attempt was struck down by then-Governor General Michael Jeffery on the advice of then-Attorney General Philip Ruddock.

The law would have effectively granted same-sex couples the same rights and benefits as married couples, simply leaving out the term "marriage."  At the time, then-Prime Minister John Howard said the ACT’s move sought to undermine the nation’s 2004 Marriage Amendment Bill, which established marriage as a union between one man and one woman, and specifically excluded same-sex "marriage."

Regarding the current bill, one member of the ACT’s legislature, Vicki Dunne, who serves as shadow attorney-general, predicted that the federal government would stop the bill.  "It is almost certain the Commonwealth will intervene," she told the Telegraph.  "It still sounds like a marriage and it still feels like a marriage and therefore it probably is a marriage."

Last year, the federal government granted new legal and financial benefits to same-sex couples by making changes to about 100 federal laws.  Nevertheless, they continued to declare their intention to uphold the true definition of marriage.

"The government believes that marriage is between a man and a woman so it won’t amend the marriage act," said Attorney-General Robert McClelland.

Australia’s Senate has now initiated an inquiry into the Marriage Amendment Bill, however, hearing arguments this week both for and against same-sex "marriage."  The submissions the committee received, totalling more than 20,000, were against same-sex "marriage" by a ratio of two to one.

This Report from LifeSiteNews.com

www.LifeSiteNews.com