Monday, 30 August 2021
[by video link] The events in Afghanistan in recent weeks have been tragic, particularly the suicide attacks last week which not only killed dozens and injured hundreds but have also permanently disrupted the evacuation of Australians, those who have supported and assisted us, and the refugees we ought to support. We are witnessing in real time the transformation of a country from one which is beset by many challenges but has been developing to one which is now becoming very much a failed state. It is a mortifying end to the two decades of Australian and allied operations—one that was sadly predictable to anyone who is familiar with Afghanistan's long history of invasion and occupation.
That is why I enthusiastically supported Senator Lambie's motion last week which established an Afghanistan inquiry. But I think we, the Senate, can do much better in the future. I have long argued that any future deployment of Australian forces should have parliamentary approval. I now also believe it should have parliamentary oversight. Whenever Australian forces are committed, the Senate should automatically establish a select committee that continues for as long as our forces are deployed. This Senate select committee should have broad terms of reference to inquire into any relevant matter, and its membership should comprise all parties and all senators. This will provide us with much greater transparency and much greater scrutiny, both of which will lead to better decision-making by government. It is an important, necessary change and one that I intend to pursue throughout the rest of this year.