07 November 2010

Andrew Farran on the War Powers Bill

The following letter to the editor by Andrew Farran on the proposal that Parliamentary approval be required for the deployment of Australian forces overseas was published in The Age on Saturday 23 October 2010:

The Editor,
'The Age'

Dear Sir,

The private members Bill now before Parliament that would require prior Parliamentary authorisation before Australian troops could be deployed in armed combat abroad is opposed by the major parties essentially on two grounds. First, because of secret intelligence and diplomatic contacts the Executive would know best and should be allowed to commit the troops regardless. Secondly, because critical decisions about war could be left in the hands of just a few people in one or both Houses (i.e. minority parties and independents).

One would think, when it came to war, that if the issue were not sufficiently clear cut to warrant bipartisan support the case for deployment would be weak, and being so, not worth risking the lives of troops in combat. If the issue were clearly divisive then justification on national interest grounds would need to be demonstrated and assessed in the Parliament. In anticipation of a situation where the two Houses might be deadlocked, a requirement for a Joint Sitting in such cases should be considered and submitted for Constitutional amendment.

In the light of contentious deployments to Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, the case for Parliamentary debate and approval before future deployments, other than in circumstances of extreme national emergency, has already been made.

Yours, etc.


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