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Lessons of history must be applied to defence planning for the future

The Australian Greens today urged the Federal Government and Opposition to learn the lessons of history on defence policy.

The Greens spokesperson assisting on Defence, Senator for Western Australia Scott Ludlam, said the Opposition Leader Tony Abbott "raised important points at his RSL speech today but failed to draw the important conclusions".

"Mr Abbott rightly pointed out that politicians make decisions and others pay the price, and that we must be meticulous in getting it right. That is why the power to commit Australians to war must be taken away from the Prime Minister and a few ministers and vested in the Parliament - so these decisions can be made properly.

"The Opposition Leader stressed the need to support Australians in the firing line. We have seen the emotional and physical toll of war has been heavy - with many returned soldiers in counseling years after active service. We need to make sure they get the help they need, and we must remember that the best way to support Australian soldiers to only put them in harm's way when there is a compelling case to do so. This was not the case in Iraq. This is not the case in Afghanistan.

"Mr Abbott pointed out Australia fights no wars of aggression. It would be sound policy to stop giving our support to those nations that do."

"I take issue with the Opposition Leader blurring the Iraq invasion and the menace posed by Al Qaida in one of his comments. The invasion of Iraq had nothing to do with opposing terrorism or religious extremism. Indeed as a result of the invasion extremists are far more influential in Iraq than before."

Senator Ludlam said defence funding priorities needed a frank and thorough debate, which was being stifled as a result of the government's decision to draft the 2013 Defence white paper without public input.

"We have seen decision after decision go wrong on hardware.

"The Opposition Leader observed today that it's important to learn from history - and he is right - but we must calibrate defence thinking and spending to deal with the threats of the future. This means a greater focus on climate-related security issues, and on humanitarian and other disaster-response capabilities. Above all we must shift the power to declare war away from the Prime Minister's office and to the Parliament."


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