Monday 23 Jul 2018 | 00:53 | SYDNEY
Monday 23 Jul 2018 | 00:53 | SYDNEY

Reader riposte: War and parliament


Sam Roggeveen


9 September 2010 12:03

Alison Broinowski writes:

There is a simple solution to the problem raised by Andrew Wilkie about a personal no confidence motion over a war he judged to be unethical. Rather than have such a serious matter rest with one person, the Parliament, I suggest, should in those circumstances hold a debate on a matter of public importance. The government should be required to explain the reasons for the war, its legality, its likely duration and cost, and there should be a vote on the matter.

At present, as the Howard government's decision to invade Iraq demonstrated, all that is required is for the Prime Minister to advise the Governor General of his intention to send Australians to war. If, as Sam implies, too much power is in the hands of Andrew Wilkie, he might also reflect on how much power the Prime Minister has. The Australian Prime Minister is less constrained in going to war than is the President of the United States.

I am surprised than none of the Independents nor Adam Bandt has raised this matter.

I didn't mean to imply that Wilkie has 'too much power'; theoretically, at least, he has no more or less power than any of the 76 MPs that now guarantee supply. It's good to see the House returned to something like its proper place in our nation's politics, and I sympathise with Alison's sentiment (also advanced by Peter Leahy) that this should be extended to decisions about war.

One thing I should have been clearer about in my initial post: it's very unlikely that the 'Iran military strike' scenario I referred to will come to pass. America could launch such a strike, of course, but I doubt it would try to bring together a military coalition to do it. Such a mission would be well within US means to conduct alone, and Washington would probably want to preserve some tactical surprise by saying nothing before the event.