Left wants Aus­tralian par­lia­ment to de­bate if na­tion goes to war

The Australian - - THE NATION - TROY BRAMSTON

Mem­bers of La­bor’s left want par­lia­ment to have the au­thor­ity to de­clare war and send troops to a for­eign bat­tle­field, and are ad­vo­cat­ing a res­o­lu­tion to be put to the party’s na­tional con­fer­ence start­ing next week.

The con­tro­ver­sial pol­icy change has the back­ing of the NSW La­bor left, which in­cludes Tanya Plibersek and An­thony Al­banese, but does not have the sup­port of the op­po­si­tion’s de­fence spokesman Richard Mar­les or for­eign af­fairs spokes­woman Penny Wong.

La­bor’s na­tional con­fer­ence fringe pro­gram in­cludes a fo­rum hosted by lobby group Be Sure on War — Aus­tralians for War Pow­ers Re­forms, at which La­bor spokes­men Mike Kelly and An­drew Giles are speak­ing.

Be Sure on War ar­gues that de­ci­sions to go to war should be made with greater trans­parency and ac­count­abil­ity: “Aus­tralia needs a demo­cratic sys­tem where there are strong checks and bal­ances for when troops are sent into over­seas con­flict. We want leg­is­la­tion re­quir­ing par­lia­men­tary ap­proval for en­ter­ing con­flict over­seas, so we have proper de­bate, scru­tiny and crit­i­cal ap­praisal of the de­ci­sion.”

How­ever, Mr Mar­les quashed the sug­ges­tion of any change to La­bor’s cur­rent pol­icy or ex­ist­ing prac­tice, in­sist­ing that de­ploy­ing Aus­tralian De­fence Force per­son­nel out­side Aus­tralia must and would re­main “the sole pre­rog­a­tive” of ex­ec­u­tive gov­ern­ment.

“La­bor fully sup­ports the prin­ci­ple that it is the role of our par­lia­ment to de­bate is­sues of con­cern and to act as a fo­cal point for dis­cus­sions which take place in the Aus­tralian com­mu­nity,” he said.

“The im­per­a­tive for par­lia­men­tary de­bate, how­ever, should not be con­fused with a re­quire­ment for par­lia­men­tary ap­proval for the de­ploy­ment of ADF per­son­nel. The gov­ern­ment of the day must al­ways re­tain the nec­es­sary flex­i­bil­ity to al­low it to re­spond to threats to Aus­tralia’s na­tional se­cu­rity quickly and ef­fi­ciently.”

Mr Kelly said he did not sup­port par­lia­men­tary ap­proval for go­ing to war. Mr Giles said there was a need to “get the bal­ance right be­tween the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of the ex­ec­u­tive and of politi­cians”.

“I do be­lieve we should seek to im­prove trans­parency and ac­count­abil­ity and en­cour­age Aus­tralians to con­sider what checks and bal­ances are re­quired over such vi­tal de­ci­sions,” Mr Giles said.

The de­ci­sion to go to war has al­ways been made by the prime min­is­ter and cab­i­net.

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