House debates

Monday, 15 February 2021


Defence Amendment (Parliamentary Approval of Overseas Service) Bill 2021; Second Reading

10:23 am

Photo of Andrew WilkieAndrew Wilkie (Clark, Independent) Share this | Hansard source

I second the bill and note that parliamentary war powers reform is something that the member for Melbourne and I have been advocating for for a great many years. In Australia, the Prime Minister alone can send the country to war, which is dangerous, unnecessary, outdated and out of step with the practice in many parliamentary democracies, including the United States, the United Kingdom and a number of countries in Western Europe. We have seen the gut-wrenching impact of this in the dreadful and ongoing consequences of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. That shocking and unnecessary intervention, almost exactly 18 years ago, was decided upon on a whim by then Prime Minister John Howard personally. It was a war based on a lie, and this parliament must ensure it is never repeated.

The decision to deploy troops overseas is not one that should be taken lightly. It affects all of us, not just the Defence Force, and should be made by the parliament and not just the Prime Minister and his mates. That he or she consults with the cabinet is simply not good enough. After all, the decision to resort to deadly force is one of the most significant decisions any government can make. It is not some politician's plaything but instead a decision requiring the most stringent scrutiny.

Research released by Roy Morgan late last year shows that over 83 per cent of Australians believe the prerogative to decide whether to send our troops into armed conflict abroad should rest with the parliament. Eighty-three per cent of Australians understand, that going to war is the most momentous decision that can be made on their behalf and, in a democracy, it's their elected representatives who should have that responsibility, not the Prime Minister. So I say to all members: please listen to the Australian people and support the member for Melbourne's private member's bill, because some things should be above party politics and it's undeniable that war powers is one of them.


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