We are told that our troops fight to preserve our democracy. That democracy appears to be missing-in-action when the nation goes to war.
Australians for War Powers Reform, a project of the Campaign for an Iraq War Inquiry (Inc), commissioned a public opinion poll that was conducted by Roy Morgan in October 2014. The full results can be downloaded from our website, with the weighted results on page 5 being most representative.
The poll question, and results, were as follows:
It is not currently required that Parliament be consulted before Australian troops are sent into armed conflict abroad. Do you believe Parliament’s approval of such decisions should be required?
A Yes, always 31.0 %
B Yes, unless immediate danger to Australia 45.7 %
C No 23.4 %
In other words, 3 out of 4 Australians believe that, unless there is immediate danger to Australia, Parliament should be required to approve a decision to send Australian troops into armed conflict abroad.
And nearly 1 in 3 believe that Parliament should be required to approve that decision even when there is immediate danger to Australia.
The sample consisted of 1,201 respondents, all being Australians aged 18 years and over, during the period 16 – 17 October 2014. The response rate was reported by Roy Morgan to be good, with the sample broadly representative by age/sex/state.
The same question was put to every federal parliamentarian, initially by letter then by email reminder, over a two-week period in October 2014. The response rate from parliamentarians was, with very notable exceptions, appallingly low. Less than 20 Parliamentarians responded by the due date. All responses can be found on our website. The office of Foreign Minister Julie Bishop informed CIWI that the Minister is unable to participate in any surveys, a rule that is enforced by the Chief Government Whip. CIWI understands that this applies to all Liberal parliamentarians.
While indicating that they do not believe Parliament should have to approve a decision to send the ADF into armed combat abroad, a very small number of representatives sent a considered reply, which is acknowledged and appreciated. Their reasons given for opposing the need for Parliamentary approval have been addressed by CIWI President and former Defence Department secretary Paul Barratt and former PM Malcolm Fraser.