The Guardian • Issue #2045



The current debate over who can decide if Australia goes to war is more urgent and important than ever, now that the rhetoric around war with China is mounting.

At its 2021 national conference, the ALP promised, if elected to government, to hold a parliamentary inquiry into the power of the prime minister to declare war without parliamentary oversight.

At present the National Security Committee (NSC) decides on whether Australia joins a foreign war.

The NSC is composed of Anthony Albanese, Richard Marles, Penny Wong, Jim Chalmers, Chris Bowen, Mark Dreyfus, Clare O’Neil, Katy Gallagher, and Pat Conroy.

The executive informs parliament after the decision has been made. By that stage it is too late to change it.

Under that system, Australia has backed the US in disastrous wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.

Under that system, Australia could back a US war on China, with even worse consequences.

On 1st October last year the ALP government announced its intention to establish an inquiry into how Australia goes to war.

Of the 111 submissions made to the inquiry, 94 were in favour of change.

However, there is growing criticism that the government has already rejected the prospect of significant reform.

Defence minister Richard Marles wrote to the inquiry last October suggesting that it should not rule in favour of war powers reform.

Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong recently told the Senate that neither she nor the government supported reform to war powers that would subject them to parliamentary approval.

Greens Senator Jordon Steele-John said over 87 per cent of the community supports parliament voting on whether to deploy troops overseas.

He said this is ALP policy and so he was surprised to hear Penny Wong announce that the government supports the status quo before the inquiry has finished.

Australia signed the United Nations Charter nearly 80 years ago. The charter forbids international armed conflict subject to certain exceptions, meaning that Australia must justify any decision to go to war before the UN Security Council.

University of Sydney Professor of International Law Ben Saul said “There’s lots of talk about potentially defending Taiwan, but neither Australia nor the US has ever explained what would be the legal basis for doing so.

“Taiwan – Australia and the US both say – is not a state but a province of China, and therefore can’t draw on the right of self-defence and collective self-defence.”

Imperialism has recognised that Asia will soon be the centre of global economic power.

Time is running out to ensure that Asia and the Pacific are dominated and controlled by the US and its allies, instead of by the local peoples themselves,

Australia is being signed up and militarised to play a front-line role in escalating Taiwan tensions into a war intended to destabilise and contain China and set back the country’s development.

Professor Saul said war powers reform could reduce the likelihood of Australia being drawn into a conflict with the US against China over Taiwan.

The final report of the war powers inquiry is expected to be published at the end of next month.

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