Leading Labor figures including Penny Wong and Richard Marles have made it clear they don’t want to change the war powers.
That means they support the John Howard ‘captain’s call’ system that took us to the disastrous and illegal Iraq war.
But it wasn’t always this way. Under then opposition leader Simon Crean the ALP strongly opposed our involvement in the Iraq invasion and backed a vote in the Senate against Howard’s plan.
That vote was won 37 votes to 32, with backing from the Democrats, Greens and some independents.
But Howard ignored the vote and pressed on with the deployment.
Mr Howard has never been held to account for his decision and has never been subjected to a proper inquiry like the Chilcot investigation in the UK.
The position taken by Simon Crean has been vindicated by history and in recent years he has expressed support for war powers reform.
In 2018 he said:
“Today more than ever, in a period when there is much less trust in government and our political institutions, we need to reflect on how such a momentous decision should be made in the future.
It can’t be just a prime minister’s call. We need to find a better way to ensure it is a process and decision of the Parliament.”
His view stands in stark contrast to the current crop of Labor leaders.
Read Simon Crean’s article: Labor’s decision to oppose the Iraq war was correct, history shows
Historic Senate vote
This is the text of the 2003 Senate vote against Australia’s involvement in the Iraq war:
20 March 2003.
That the Senate
(a) insists that Iraq must disarm under the authority of the United Nations (UN);
(b) believes that in the absence of an agreed UN Security Council resolution authorising military action against Iraq, there is no basis for military action to disarm Iraq, including action involving the Australian Defence Force;
(c) insists that there should be no commitment of Australian troops to a war in Iraq outside the authority of the UN;
(d) concludes that Australian involvement in a war in Iraq without UN authorisation is not in Australia’s national interests nor in the interests of maintaining international peace and security; and
(e) expresses its confidence in our service men and women and its full support for them and their families.
(f) is of the view that the decision of the Australian Government to commit Australian troops to an invasion of Iraq is clearly being done without the authorisation or support of the UN Security Council;
(g) opposes the decision of the Australian Cabinet and the President of the United States of America (Mr Bush) to commit troops to an attack on Iraq;
(h) calls for the Australian troops to be withdrawn and returned home; and
(i) calls on the Australian and the United States governments to continue the policy of containment and disarmament through weapons inspections under the existing UN Security Council authority, as proposed by the governments of France, Germany and Russia.
(j) calls on the Government to immediately return Australia’s 2000 Defence Force personnel home.’
The result of the division was: ayes 37, noes 32.