Massive debate on how we go to war

Did you know the decision to send Australian troops to war is made by just a handful of politicians? Turns
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Did you know the decision to send Australian troops to war is made by just a handful of politicians?

Turns out, it’s a call made by just the Prime Minister and his 22-member Cabinet.

But that could soon change.

MPs and former military chiefs have spoken out against the current system, calling for any future decisions to go to a parliamentary vote.

Labor MP Mike Kelly, a former Army Veteran, told Lateline he believed it wasn’t too late to make changes.

“In fact I think some distance now behind us will give us an even better perspective and better opportunity to do that analysis properly,” he said.

Similar calls have been made by another former military man, Former Australian Army Officer James Brown.

“It would be good to see more on the public record about how some of these decisions were made,” he said.

But any changes to the way our military decisions are made face strong opposition.

At the moment, both Labor and the LNP support keeping things the way they are.

Labor Senator Lisa Singh doesn’t.

She claims the decision to go war is too important to be left to the Prime Minister alone.

“We’re talking about one of the most important policy areas that our country has to face. And yet the decision is made by one person,” she said.

“Our parliamentarians are intelligent enough, sophisticated enough to work through a system that would work.”

If the decision did come down to a parliamentary vote, would it be so bad?

One military strategist argues it would be.

The executive director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute Peter Jennings believes a vote in parliament would ultimate leave the decision in the hands of the Senate crossbrenchers.


“That means it’s going to be Jacqui Lambie, Pauline Hanson and her supporters. It’s going to be Nick Xenophon. Are they the people we want to give Australia’s war powers to?” he said.

How soon could we see a change?

Well, the Greens plan to reintroduce a bill to debate war powers into parliament next week.

Senator Peter Whish-Wilson said the laws in place now “give essentially full control to the prime minister”.

“Australia is one of the last Western democracies that can send its citizens to overseas conflicts without any recourse to Parliament,” he said.

What do you think? Should we change our laws to make decisions about war go to parliament?

  1. Niel  

    Yes why don’t they send all the politians first . I’m quite sure no one would miss them .

    • Joy Anne Bourke  

      LOve that, yes I would agree with that.

  2. Ted Smith  

    Like all generals, (or most) they lead from the rear.

  3. Mike Butler  

    So Labor Senator Lisa Singh thinks that it is decision for the Prime Minister?? Well, not according to the law! It is a decision for the Prime Minister and Cabinet! That is an entirely different thing.

    If we give way to the nutters, we will soon need a plebiscite before we can put our troops into action!

    Of course, it may be a bit late to hold the plebiscite when the enemy have just bombed and captured Canberra!

    Oh well! What the hell — at least we will have stuck to our democratic principles!

    • Mareela  

      I think a healthy debate in Parliament is called for before one side of politics sends our soldiers off to war and possible death. In every conflict Australia has been in it was the Liberal government that made the decision without any parliamentary consultation. Wrong. Especially after the Iraq fiasco that Howard sent our troops to and on a lie at that. There never were any WMD. Should be voted on in Parliament. And Mike Butler what about the nutters in the current government? Fancy relying on them to make such important decisions, especially as they hardly represent all Australians with a one seat majority.

      • Mike Butler  

        Mareela, are you silly enough to believe that ANY government “represents all Australians?” Democracy dictates that if you have a one seat majority, you are the government! If you have a five seat majority, you are the government — and if you have a hundred seat majority — you are the government!

        Do YOU believe that to represent ALL Australians, a government must have ALL the seats in the parliament — because intellectually — that seems to be your argument!

        You are wrong!

  4. Roy Bridges  

    Needs to change, will all the unturths being told on both sides how could you trust this group ? Mal would not be able to make his mind up.know .Bill would not care along as it was to his advantage and Scott would keep telling you bs about not being able to look his kids in the face .

    Come to think of it non are up to it ,

  5. Gary Ryan  

    I agree something must be done.We go to war when ever America asks us to.We should never joined the coalition of the willing.Bombing IRAQ and killing all those civilians. That was plain wrong.And what are we doing over in Syria with our planes bombing away.I might have missed something but what has that country ever done to us.We have to get something in place because if Trump gets office we are going to bloodywell need it.the agtions of former Prime Ministers will come back to haunt us for many years to come.

  6. Rob  

    How man by politicians or politicians sons went to the second world war and how many were exempt for medical an d other reasons

  7. Matters of national security are generally decisions by the Cabinet and should remain so. If we are under attack and the parliament is not in session do we have time to reconvene parliament before we mount a response. An attack these deays is not going to have the leadup and build up as in pre WW2 days. It can be mounted in minutes to hours. By all means have that decision ratified by parliament ASAP but don’t put our defence forces in the position of having their hands tied while our defence resources could potentially be nullified while we are ar e sitting around wringing our hands.

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