Both major parties in Australia have for decades resisted legislation to change the war powers. They continue to find arguments against the idea that parliament should resolve questions on the use of lethal ADF capabilities overseas for other than defence of Australian sovereign territory.
The ALP has twice resolved to hold an inquiry into the war powers in its first term in government.
Several smaller parties and independents in the parliament have supported reform, beginning with the Democrats proposals in 1985, 1988, and 2003, and the Greens who put forward legislation in 2003, 2014, and late 2020.
But with an election just weeks away, is the outlook changing? We’re told that the polls are looking very bad for the Morrison government and in addition a number of new moderate independents may take a number of seats in the lower house.
These independents could play a key role in recommending reform of how we go to war in Australia.
In recent months we in AWPR have been writing to independent candidates to seek their views. So far we’ve written to 25 new candidates including some representing minor parties such as the New Liberal Party.
Some have failed to reply. Others have declined to commit on the issue one way or the other. Several expressed personal support but would not go on the record at this stage, even though they understand the looming possibility of another war. Many are concerned about environmental issues. Yet war itself and the war industry are enormous contributors to global warming.
We have now had positive responses from the following candidates:
Despi O’Connor (Flinders)
Pennie Scott (Riverina)
David O’Brien (Senate, NSW)
Dr Sarah Russell (Flinders)
Sitting Independents who support war powers reform include Senator Rex Patrick, Zali Steggall, Andrew Wilkie, Rebekha Sharkie, Senator Stirling Griff, and Bob Katter. Eleven Greens MPs and Senators are committed supporters.
In addition, independent MP Helen Haines has called for a Senate inquiry into war powers.
We will continue to remind Independent candidates that war powers reform has widespread support in their electorates.
The latest national poll found a massive 87% of voters support our cause, and this figure has been steadily rising since 2014.
We are encouraging them to see our campaign not as a ‘peace-nik’ effort (what’s wrong with peace?) but as an increasingly popular measure which will make politicians vastly more accountable to the electorate than they are now.
See also: The Michael West Media series on War Powers