Senate debates

Tuesday, 3 March 2015


Deployment of Australian Troops

12:50 pm

Photo of Nick XenophonNick Xenophon (SA, Independent) Share this | Hansard source

I will make a brief contribution indicating that I do support this motion. This is an important issue. It is a pity that leave was not granted to deal with this important issue. I want to restate what I said on 1 September last year in this place: there ought to be a measure of parliamentary approval. Senator Ludlam is right. We are behind the United States and the United Kingdom when it comes to dealing with troop deployments. Picking up on Senator Conroy's point, we do need to consider that there may be circumstances when there is an urgent need for deployment of troops that may not be subject to immediate parliamentary approval, but there ought to be a mechanism or a trigger in place to ensure that parliamentary approval is dealt with. That is why I think that is important.

Let us look at the issue of the invasion of Iraq in 2003. It overthrew the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein and then, recklessly, the coalition forces dismissed the entire army and dismantled the Ba'ath party. These last two events fuelled an insurgency, ignited a vicious civil war between the Shiites and the Sunnis, increased Iran's influence and, most tragically of all, led to hundreds of thousands of deaths. Meanwhile, at regional level, tensions between the Sunnis and Shiites have increased. For instance, Saudi Arabia backed the crushing of the Arab Spring in order to defeat the Shiites, particularly in Bahrain. This is a very delicate geopolitical situation but we have to deal with these issues in the parliament. That is what parliament is for; it is not for telling the military what to do or how to do it but in terms of our long-term involvement and in terms of being constantly vigilant in terms of mission creep. Otherwise we are headed for another disaster.

I put it unambiguously that Islamic State—ISIS or Daesh, as they are also called more appropriately—is an evil organisation. They have been responsible for callous atrocities, and I support what the government has done to date in order to crush ISIS and to ensure that the people that they have occupied are emancipated. But we must learn from the catastrophic consequences of George W Bush's handling of Iraq. We must ensure that these minor incremental increases do not turn into a full-scale war.

Finally, I want to make this absolutely clear: I wish our troops well. I am sure they have done us proud and will continue to do us proud. The issue here is having parliamentary scrutiny of the most grave decision any government can make, which is to send our trips to war.


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