One Nation is concerned about our Troops who are sent to defend our country. We listen to people who have returned from overseas action in a very sad state.
Senator ROBERTS: I rise to oppose the Defence Legislation Amendment (Parliamentary Approval of Overseas Service) Bill 2015 as it is proposed right now by the Greens. Instead, I will be proposing some amendments. I need to start by saying that the government, as I see it, has three core responsibilities: to protect life, to protect property and to protect freedom. The Greens, sadly, are weak on border protection, yet I must be very clear that I agree with the intent of this motion. This bill in its current form seeks to prevent the deployment of Australian Defence Force personnel for warlike operations without the approval of both houses of parliament. This bill would, if passed, tie the hands of any government from directing the use of military force to defend Australia’s strategic interests or to fulfil our obligations to our principal allies and to our citizens.
The movers of this bill in its current form appear to totally misunderstand the structure and the operation of the Westminster system of parliamentary government, in which the legislator legislates but the government governs. In my experience, the Greens have bypassed our Constitution often in the past, and this also, sadly, in its current form, bypasses the Constitution and undermines it. The government of Australia is not a student union in which every action is compelled to be subject to a drawn-out, internecine and paralysing debate and in which no action is always better than an action with which one or another of the squabbling factions disagrees. Accountability requires clear structures of responsibility. It requires clear decisions, not games and posturing and not window-dressing.
If we want this country to be capable of responding effectively to international military threats, then the government must be able to act decisively and, when necessary, clandestinely to meet these threats and not have its hands tied. That is the world in which we live. I do respect the Greens and agree with the Greens’ need for greater accountability on this issue though. Although the underlying premise of this bill is totally impractical and naive in the extreme, the principle that members of parliament and senators, who collectively represent all the citizens of this wonderful country, should be aware of the circumstances under which warlike operations are authorised by the government of the day is a very reasonable proposal. When we listen to our constituents, the people are upset with decisions like going to Iraq and going to Vietnam—automatically just following—without consultation. I can recall watching Alexander Downer, after he retired from federal parliament, stating that, when the 9/11 event occurred in New York in 2001, John Howard returned, spoke to the cabinet and said, ‘We are going to Iraq.’ That was it. That is not good enough. The public want discussion of these things. They want to be consulted; they want to know their views are understood.
To this end, Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party will propose three amendments which seek to achieve this latter reasonable aim of accountability without hamstringing the government from discharging its obligations to use military force to protect us. The first amendment that I will move when debate resumes calls for the government to provide confidential briefings to members and senators in the event of authorising any deployment. The virtues of this amendment largely speak for themselves. The second of our proposed amendments will remove the central requirement that the authority of the parliament is required for any military action, which, as previously stated, we do not support, as we believe this would compromise Australia’s ability to defend itself. The third amendment that we would propose seeks to require that, three months after authorising the use of military force, the government is required to have a debate in parliament on the merits of the military action—to have a review.
Firstly, taken collectively, these three amendments acknowledge the right of the government of the day to engage the Australian defence forces in warlike operations as it sees fit on behalf of the people of Australia. Secondly, they also make clear its obligations not to seek approval but to keep the larger legislature informed of the circumstances surrounding any such deployment and the requirements for it. Thirdly, they also seek to ensure that the government is subsequently accountable to the broader legislature for its decisions and allows all members and senators a say in the continuation of any such military action.
Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party is concerned about our young men and women who are sent to defend our country. We have been listening to people who have returned from overseas action in a very sad state. As one of them said to me, our country ‘sends them, bends them, but doesn’t mend them’. I have three former Defence staff in my team. We are aware of the threats that these people face, and we understand, as they do, that security must dominate. These young men and women deserve complete respect and our accountability before we send them overseas. In the event that our proposed amendments are defeated, we will oppose the bill. I move the second reading amendment standing in my name:
At the end of the motion, add:“, but the Senate acknowledges the executive’s responsibility to deploy forces at short notice and calls on the Government to be open and accountable to all parliamentary representatives prior to making such a decision.”.
Source Commonwealth of Australia, Senate Defence Legislation Amendment (Parliamentary Approval of Overseas Service) Bill 2015 Second Reading