Right now, the Prime Minister and Cabinet can send our ADF personnel into war to risk their lives without needing the approval of the Australian parliament. This means that there is no opportunity for the community to interrogate the case made for deployment, or ensure that their are proper supports in place for veterans as they return.
Our War Powers Act would change this and mean that the whole Parliament - not just the government - would have to vote on the need to send ADF personnel beyond the territorial limits of Australia, and would receive regular updates about the need for our armed forces to be sent abroad, as well as the actions of our soldiers once their boots are on foreign soil.
A 2010 study by the Parliamentary Library found that 9 of 13 European countries had similar powers to limit the military power of the Executive branch of government, including Germany, Italy, Spain, and Sweden. The United States’ Congress has final say on deployment of the USAF.
After the strategic failures in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Prime Minister and Cabinet can no longer be trusted to make the decision alone to enter into armed conflict overseas.
According to a nationwide Roy Morgan opinion poll, released on Thursday, 83.3% of Australians want Parliament to vote on whether our troops are sent into armed conflict abroad. The poll found that more than 75% of all Labor, Coalition and Greens voters support the reform.
The release of the Brereton Inquiry into alleged war crimes committed by Australian SAS soldiers in Afghanistan shows the importance of accountability over the decision to both deploy troops and their actions while overseas.
Passing this bill is essential to give Australians a say in future armed conflicts. When voters go to the ballot box, they’ll finally be able to elect representatives that choose peace over war, knowing that they too will be accountable for the actions of our troops.