Thursday, 22 March 2018
That the Senate—
(a) notes that 20 March 2018 marked the fifteenth anniversary of the commencement of the Iraq War;
(b) recalls the motion passed by the Senate on 20 March 2003, which stated that 'there should be no commitment of Australian troops to a war in Iraq outside the authority of the United Nations', and opposed 'the decision of the Australian Cabinet and the President of the United States of America to commit troops to an attack on Iraq';
(c) recognises that the decision of the Australian Government to commit Australian troops and provide support to the invasion of Iraq was made in the face of opposition of the majority of the Australian community, as well as the Senate;
(d) notes with deep sadness that the 2003 invasion of Iraq unleashed a catastrophe in every respect, and caused an enormous amount of additional suffering; and
(e) calls on all parties to support a long overdue inquiry into Australia's involvement in the Iraq War.
Sending our service men and women into warlike operations is one of the most serious decisions a government can make. Australia's involvement in the Iraq War has already been thoroughly examined by parliamentary inquiries and is a matter of public record. A further inquiry is unnecessary. The Australian Defence Force operates under strict rules of engagement in accordance with domestic and international law. On the 15th anniversary of the decision to join the Iraq War, the coalition government commends the service of the men and women who have served our country with distinction and honour during this conflict.
Labor's view on the Iraq War is well known. In 2003, Labor opposed the commitment of troops to the conflict in Iraq without the endorsement of the UN, and it was the former Labor government that took the decision to withdraw our combat troops from Iraq in 2008. For these reasons, the opposition will support paragraphs (a) to (d) of this motion.
However, the opposition asks for the question to be divided so that we can vote differently on paragraph (e). The opposition does not support the call for yet another inquiry into Australia's involvement in the Iraq war. The circumstances surrounding the decision to commit troops to the Iraq war have been the subject of a number of parliamentary inquiries, particularly in the Senate. The specific use of the intelligence of weapons of mass destruction has also been the subject of extensive government and parliamentary reviews, including the former Parliamentary Joint Committee on ASIO, ASIS and DSD, and the 2004 Flood inquiry into the Australian intelligence agencies.
I know that Labor has the right to split this motion, but fundamentally—and I need to get this on the record—we completely disagree with the government that there has been a proper, independent inquiry into the Iraq war. The Chilcot inquiry was a proper, independent inquiry into the Iraq war in the UK, and its findings were damning. They were damning. We've never had anything like that in this country.
My reason for asking the Senate to consider taking the two together is that—and I respect the fact that the Labor Party did vote against the Iraq war, as did this Senate, may I say, and that is in the motion—we are still sending our proud men and women in uniform off to fight in the Middle East, in this ongoing mess, this debacle, that we are seeing unfolding before us. Until we actually learn from the Iraq war, unfortunately, Labor will continue to support our troop deployments and our force deployments in the Middle East.