On 28 April CIWI’s Treasurer, former diplomat and international law academic Andrew Farran, sent the following letter to the Minister for Foreign Affairs:
The Hon. Julie Bishop, MP
Minister for Foreign Affairs
P.O. Box 6022
House of Representatives
CANBERRA A.C.T. 2600
April 28, 2014
Dear Minister Bishop,
I heard your address at Villers-Bretonneux on Anzac Day and was impressed by its sincerity. War, of course, is a serious business. Even more serious is the decision-making process for getting into war in the first place.
WW1 and WW2 speak for themselves, both in the historical context, and that in each case Australia was responding to aggression which threatened our own freedom and security. Korea too, as it had ramifications arising from the Pacific War. It also had UN sanction. Afghanistan had UN sanction to deal with Al Qaeda, but it went further from there which was a mistake. But Vietnam and Iraq were quite different as we were engaging in internal matters not of our concern and because we felt obligated to the US, not under the Alliance but for political reasons.
If political reasons are to be a justification for entering another’s war it would seem appropriate to recall your remark at Villers-Bretonneux where you noted the extent to which war touches Australian families, as it did so enormously in both World Wars.
Where there is no clear case of aggression against the country, or clear and present danger, Australian families and their representatives should have a real say in any decision to go to war. The government alone – elected on other issues – is not best placed to make this decision. It cannot be assumed that it alone is in possession of all relevant facts, which would be the case if Parliament as whole, with the benefit of public opinion, were engaged fully in the process.
It cannot be denied now that the manner in which Australia became involved in the drawn out, indecisive Iraq war was a decision taken in effect by a cabal of Ministers to please the then US President (with emotion). This was no way to make such critical decisions.
I seek your support with others for a review of the war-making powers in Australia so that previous disasters in this area may be avoided in future. I note that there are clear moves in this direction in the UK with respect to their own war-making powers.