Left wants Australian parliament to debate if nation goes to war
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.