FORMER prime minister Malcolm Fraser says Australia’s “truly archaic” process for going to war needs to be overhauled.
Mr Fraser spoke on Thursday at the launch of a campaign by a group of eminent Australians calling for an independent inquiry into the decisions that led to Australia joining the invasion of Iraq in March, 2003.
The Iraq War Inquiry Group comprises respected academics, former high-ranking bureaucrats and retired military leaders.
A booklet – Why Did We Go To War In Iraq? A Call For An Australian Inquiry – has been compiled by the group outlining the need for such an inquiry.
Mr Fraser, who wrote the foreword for the booklet, said an Iraq War inquiry in Australia was well overdue.
He pointed to similar inquiries already completed in European countries, most notably Britain.
A long-time critic of Australia’s involvement in the war, Mr Fraser said serious questions remained about the events that led to Australia joining the US-led invasion of Iraq.
He said Australia needed a war powers act, whereby the decision to enter future conflicts would rest with Parliament and not the executive.
“The process by which Australia goes to war is archaic, outdated and totally undemocratic,” Mr Fraser said.
It was a point made by a number of speakers at the campaign launch in Parliament House on Thursday, including former defence force chief Peter Gration.
“I believe the inquiry may recommend that parliamentary approval of some form is needed for a decision to go to war,” Mr Gration said.
Mr Gration, another outspoken critic of the war and Australia’s involvement, said the Iraq conflict was widely regarded globally as a “humanitarian, legal, political and strategic disaster”.
The booklet, he said, succeeded in establishing a “prima-facie case for an inquiry into the Iraq War”.
He said a number of issues required “deeper inquiry”, including Australia’s national interest being “subordinated to those of the United States”.
Mr Gration argued the reasons provided for Australia’s involvement were “inadequate”, hence the need for an inquiry.
“If we can get a better understanding of how the decision to go to war was actually made, we should be able to do better in the future,” he said.
Independent MP Andrew Wilkie also spoke at the launch, saying a proper inquiry was needed so the proponents of the war could explain their actions.
“We must learn lessons from the war, so we don’t the same mistakes again,” Mr Wilkie said.
“And that must include a proper review of the parliament’s war powers so that never again can a small cabal take this country to war for fraudulent reasons.”
Mr Wilkie resigned from the Office of National Assessments in the lead-up to the Iraq War over concerns intelligence was being misrepresented in making the case for Australia’s involvement.
He said an approach to Prime Minister Julia Gillard last year expressing the need for an inquiry was dismissed.
“She clearly … had no appetite for trawling over the events of almost 10 years ago. It was almost as though she thought that Australia had moved on,” Mr Wilkie said.
“But I tell her what – we haven’t moved on. There are a great many Australians who are still mightily upset and concerned because there is no greater act of official misconduct, than to invade another country for fraudulent reasons.”
To download the booklet and sign an appeal for an inquiry visit www.iraqwarinquiry.org.au