Albanese fails to embrace war power reforms

August 10, 2023
May Day rally in Port Kembla against it being made into a nuclear submarine base. Photo: Peter Boyle

Most MPs and Senators will continue to have no real say over how Australia goes to war, following the announcement by Defence Minister Richard Marles on August 8.

Responding to a parliamentary inquiry into war powers, Marles reaffirmed the current “captain’s call” system, leaving these crucial decisions to the Prime Minister and a select cabinet group.

Dr Alison Broinowski from Australians for War Powers Reform said the decision is disappointing and reveals a disturbing anti-democratic mindset in the government.

“By reaffirming the status quo, the government is showing a complete lack of faith in all our elected representatives — MPs and Senators.

“If the government wants to send our sons and daughters to another foreign war, it needs to have the Australian public’s support, through their local representatives.

“In 2023, one would have thought that discarding the John Howard-style decision making which took us to Iraq would not be controversial, but the Albanese government is sticking with this outdated system.”

A new defence oversight committee is welcome, but simply allowing more discussion and consultation does not change the fundamental problem — which is a glaring lack of transparency and accountability that can only be ensured by a vote in both houses.

“Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan wars were disastrous. If we as a nation want to make better decisions in the future, we must look at alternatives. Sticking with the status quo is a road to nowhere,” Broinowski said.

“The last three national surveys on war powers found that 80–90% think parliament should decide on whether we should join overseas conflicts. An overwhelming majority of submissions to the parliamentary inquiry late last year said the same.

“The Albanese government is completely out of step with community sentiment on this issue, as was the previous Coalition government,” Broinowski said.

[Mark Robinson is active in Australians for War Powers Reform.]

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