The most important decision

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This letter from AWPR member Ernst Willheim was originally published in The Canberra Times on 27th November 2015:

If Tony Minchin is under the impression that the Australian Defence Force is on a permanent state of readiness  (War Moves Quickly, Canberra Times, letters, 24 November) he is mistaken. At a recent high level seminar at the Australian National University distinguished retired generals with extensive command and combat experience explained that major operational commitments require months of preparation. Only a very small pool of our defence forces is kept at a high level of readiness. The parliament can be called into emergency session at short notice. In any event any scheme for prior parliamentary approval of a decision to go to war would almost certainly include provision for emergency engagement, for example, for the Governor-General to provide the Australian Defence Forces with the necessary authorisation following receipt of advice from the Minister for Defence (perhaps after the Minister has received advice from the Chief of the Defence Force and advice from the Solicitor-General that the proposed engagement is lawful). A decision to go to war is arguably  the most important decision any government can make, a decision inevitably involving life and death, the lives and deaths of members of the Australian Defences Forces, the lives and deaths of those against whom we wage war, enormous destruction of property and enormous expenditure of public moneys. Yet this most monumental of decisions, the commitment of the nation to war, is perhaps the least regulated of any government decision.
Ernst Willheim

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