Open Letter to the Hon. Richard Marles MP, Minister for Defence
Dear Mr Marles
ADF deployment to the Middle East – October 2023
I write on behalf of Australians for War Powers Reform (AWPR) to seek clarification of Australia’s current defence posture in the Middle East following your announcement on 25 October 2023 that a significant number of troops would be dispatched along with two aircraft.
Several media reports of your announcement suggested that very limited information was published about this decision.
The number of ADF personnel involved and their destination was not revealed and there has been speculation about the exact nature of the deployment.
While the need for possible evacuations of Australian citizens in the region is understandable and supported, some in the community are concerned about the possibility of Australia becoming involved in the current conflict.
Some operational confidentiality may be justified but Australians expect the maximum possible transparency on defence matters, in particular when ADF personnel may be at some risk.
Can you provide more detail on this decision and are you willing to make it clear that Australian troops will not be involved in military action or war like operations?
Several senior defence experts have also suggested that a wider war may be on the cards including the possible involvement of Iran and the U.S. Can you assure Australians that we will not be involved in such a war? Has the government undertaken any risk assessment regarding our involvement in such a regional conflict?
As you know the recent Inquiry into international armed conflict decision making made several recommendations to strengthen accountability.
In particular recommendation three includes a requirement that the Parliament be recalled as soon as possible if Australia is becoming involved in conflict overseas. It also includes a requirement that the Executive facilitate a debate in both Houses of Parliament at the earliest opportunity, either prior to deployment of the Australian Defence Force or within thirty days of deployment.
Can you confirm that this recommendation, which the government accepted, is now in force?
AWPR believes that excessive secrecy surrounding defence and foreign affairs matters has been prevalent for too long in Australia and became ingrained in policy making under the previous government.
We hope that your government, which advocated strongly for greater transparency prior to the last election, will move to a far greater level of openness in decision making.
President, Australians for War Powers Reform