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Iraq War 20th Anniversary – Melissa Parke

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As a UN staff member working in Gaza in 2003, I watched, horrified, as PM John Howard eagerly dispatched Australian troops to be part of the invasion of Iraq, an action that the majority of the world regarded as illegal and most certainly disastrous.
Subsequent events have borne that out – and what a terrible cost in human lives, in culture and heritage, in ongoing terror and pain.

Following the catastrophic invasion of Iraq and its aftermath, the UK changed its war making powers, with a new convention requiring the parliament rather than the Prime Minister to make decisions about sending British troops to war.

Australia has never had such a reckoning about its ill-fated decisions to participate in disastrous wars like Vietnam and Iraq, and today still clings to what the UK House of Lords has described as an ‘outdated left-over royal prerogative’.

This outdated royal prerogative concentrates war powers mainly in the hands of the PM rather than requiring any prospective Australian participation in war to be the subject of thorough debate and interrogation by the Australian parliament. This is no basis for a modern democracy to commit Australian soldiers overseas to kill and potentially be killed.

I mentioned the need for war powers reform in both my first and last speeches to parliament. Given current world events, the need for such reform is more urgent than ever.

Hon Melissa Parke
Former Minister for International Development
Former Federal Member for Fremantle

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