The Australian Greens say revelations that the Howard Government actively discouraged official advice before sending troops to Iraq highlight the need for decisions on sending diggers to fight overseas to be taken by Parliament.
According to excerpts published in The Australian newspaper from Paul Kelly’s new book The March of Patriots – the Struggle for Modern Australia, senior ministers in the Howard Government were the main decision-makers regards whether to go to war in Iraq and according to senior public servants in their departments, these ministers insisted on receiving advice as to ‘how’ to wage the war, not ‘whether’ it was right for Australia.
“In 2003, in the absence of any checks or balances that many other democracies have, John Howard sent Australian troops to war, without Parliamentary approval and against overwhelming public opposition,” Greens Legal Affairs Spokesperson, Senator Scott Ludlam said.
“This must never happen again and it is why the Australian Greens have initiated a Senate Inquiry into ‘War Powers’ Bill, which will make it compulsory for there to be parliamentary approval before the Prime Minister can take the nation to war.
“If passed, this Bill – otherwise known as the Defence Amendment (Parliamentary Approval of Overseas Service) Bill – will require a decision on whether to go to war to scrutiny by Parliament, as is the case in Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Slovakia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey.
“In the UK, the Liberal Democrats and Conservative parties are strongly pressuring the British Prime Minister to take this step,” Senator Ludlam continued.
“However, it should be noted that this Bill will not hinder the sending of Australian troops overseas for emergency deployments, disaster relief or peacekeeping operations.
“The Senate’s Foreign affairs, Defence and Trade Committee is now taking submissions on the Bill until 16 October, after which evidence will also be taken hearings to gauge community sentiment about this important initiative," Senator Ludlam said.
“I therefore encourage everyone to be involved with this process and have their voice heard on such a crucial issue for the functioning of our democracy.”
Note to editors: The Bill was first introduced by former Democrat Senator Andrew Bartlett. Details of the inquiry may be viewed at: http://www.aph.gov.au/Senate/committee/fadt_ctte/dapaosb08/index.htm
For more information or media enquiries please call Eloise Dortch on 0415 507 763