Australia Prime Ministers are quick to take us to war and even quicker to commemorate those wars. They are not so quick to provide meaningful debate in Parliament about those decisions.
The Australian War Powers Reform campaign, No War Without Parliament, is now seeking to ensure the voices of some of those Australians most heavily affected by decisions for overseas wars – ADF veterans and their families – are heard.
AWPR says: “Many hundreds of Australian families are today living with the terrible grief of having lost a loved one as a result of military service in Australia’s recent wars.
“A disproportionate number of those deaths were by suicide. Many more veterans and their families are living with war’s emotional and physical traumas.
“Australia relies on our Defence Force members, via their solemnly sworn oath of allegiance, to protect us from armed attack.”
Going to war is a momentous national decision with potentially devastating consequences for Australian troops, Australian society and the people in whose countries Australians fight.
Australian armed forces personnel face the risks of: killing or being killed in wars that do not necessarily have the support of most Australians; serious and permanent physical injury; possible exposure to atrocities and other events which will have a permanent
psychological impact; where the war is illegal under international law, being complicit in war crimes; involvement in actions that bring civilian harm, possibly on a large scale; and, experiencing uncertainty about the real reasons for which they are fighting.
AWPR is collecting signatures from ADF veterans and their families – in a campaign designed to ensure that ADF personnel in future are not sacrificed or harmed unnecessarily, and that their families and loved ones know that they are fighting with the support of the Australian people and Parliament.”
“Currently a decision for ADF involvement in an overseas war can be made by the Prime Minister acting alone. Not only the public but also our elected representatives in parliament
have no say at all in it, ” AWPR says.
“This has not done justice to those who have served in the past and will not do so to those who may be called on to serve in future.”.
It is urging parliamentarians to demand that any proposal for Australian involvement in overseas wars receives scrutiny in parliament followed by their vote, to ensure that ADF actions have the widespread support of the Australian people as expressed through Parliament.
It wants to change Australian law so that our armed forces cannot be sent to an overseas conflict without the approval of parliament.
Meanwhile some Cabinet Ministers seem to be positively aching to go to war. Paul Daley in The Guardian (14 December 2021) writes that “if Peter Dutton and his like want to conduct war games to enhance their pre-election prospects, perhaps they should play a few rounds of paintball.”
“As a desperate Morrison government recklessly spruiks what it insists are the prospects of armed conflict with China now is exactly the right time to introduce a legal curb on the federal executive’s unilateral capacity to commit Australian troops to war,” he said.
“Since the recent emergence as Defence Minister of Prime Ministerial wannabe Peter Dutton, the Federal Government has dangerously amped up the prospect of Australian war with China over Taiwan, for what some consider cynical political purposes ahead of an election.
“Dutton repeatedly reaches into his inflammatory, scare-‘em-all-the-way-to-the-ballot-box rhetorical kit bag, with questionable claims including that it would be ‘inconceivable’ for Australia not to follow America if there was a war with China.”
Meanwhile, while China puts embargos on our exports to them while the US, our putative partner in this China war, are busily filling the gap with their own rapidly expanding exports and Labor’s Penny Wong has decried the Morrison government’s position on Taiwan as ‘most dangerous election tactic in Australian history’. She accused the Prime Minister of “desperately playing politics on China whenever he’s in trouble” – citing the prime minister’s recent attempt to portray Labor as siding with Beijing.
Needless to say Morrison, Dutton and others can be regularly relied on to invoke Nazism and appeasement – conveniently forgetting that this was a policy largely invented by conservatives in Britain, Australia and the US.
They also seem to be victims of Godwin’s Law about the probability of introducing Hitler and Nazism into debates – and the law’s conclusion about thus losing the debate.