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Greens move to give Parliament power over sending troops to war

Leader of the Australian Greens, Adam Bandt MP, and Australian Greens Peace Spokesperson, Senator Jordon Steele-John, will in the next sitting week of Parliament move a bill to require Parliamentary approval before Australian troops are sent to war. 

The release of the Brereton Inquiry into alleged war crimes committed by Australian SAS soldiers shows the importance of accountability over the decision to both deploy troops and their actions while overseas, the Greens say.

The Defence Amendment (Parliamentary Approval of Overseas Service) Bill would mean members of the Defence Force may not serve beyond the territorial limits of Australia except when agreed to by a majority of both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

A 2010 study by the Parliamentary Library found that 9 of 13 European countries had similar powers to limit the military power of the Executive branch of government, including Germany, Italy, Spain, and Sweden. The United States’ Congress has final say on deployment of the USAF.

Mr Bandt will introduce the Bill to the House and Senator Steele-John will introduce it to the Senate.

Quotes attributable to Greens Leader, Adam Bandt:

“The more the truth is revealed about what war actually involves, the more the public needs a say about whether to go to war in the first place,” said Mr Bandt.

“We need open, honest and transparent debate about sending troops to war and keeping them there.”

“By requiring the approval of parliament not just to go to war but to stay there, governments will be less likely to wage wars for their own narrow political purposes. 

“Australia must join other advanced nations like the United States, Germany and Sweden that protect against unilateral decisions by the government. 

“The people’s representatives must be able to fully and openly debate whether to send our troops to war or keep them there.     

“Under the Greens’ bill, the whole Parliament - not just the government - will receive regular updates about the need for our armed forces to be sent abroad, as well as the actions of our soldiers once their boots are on foreign soil." 

Quotes attributable to Greens Peace Spokesperson, Jordon Steele-John:

“After the strategic failures in Iraq and Afghanistan, the executive cannot be trusted to make the decision alone to enter into armed conflict overseas. 

“There is currently no legislative provision checking the Australian Government’s ability to send troops to another country. It is unacceptable that the Prime Minister and Cabinet are able to make these decisions without allowing the Australian Parliament, and by extension the Australian people, to examine the case for war. 

“MPs must be forced to take responsibility for the decision to send our troops into harm's way.

“Since 1985, War Powers legislation has existed before the Australian Parliament in some form yet we are still one of the few remaining democracies that can legally deploy its defence force into a conflict zone without recourse to the parliament. This has to change.

“It is now clear that continual deployment without strategic direction was a clear part of the context in which these crimes occurred. This legislation would ensure that in future we are clear on our purpose for engaging in armed conflict abroad and allow for a re-examination of the case for continuing.

“According to a nationwide Roy Morgan opinion poll, released on Thursday, 83.3% of Australians want Parliament to vote on whether our troops are sent into armed conflict abroad. The poll found that more than 75% of all Labor, Coalition and Greens voters support the reform.

“Passing this bill is essential to give Australians a say in future armed conflicts. When voters go to the ballot box, they’ll finally be able to elect representatives that choose peace over war, knowing that they too will be accountable for the actions of our troops.”

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