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PM should never have had the power to take us to war.

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Senator Andrew Bartlett Leader of the Australian Democrats Spokesperson for Defence and Veterans Affairs 4 February 2004 MEDIA RELEASE 04/045

PM should never have had the power to take us to war

The Australian Democrats today launched a postcard as part of a campaign to change the way Australia decides to go to war.

Entitled “I didn’t vote for war… neither did the Senate” the postcards seek voters’ views on whether Parliamentary consent should be needed before Australian troops are sent to overseas conflict.

Democrats’ Leader, Senator Andrew Bartlett said, “Many Australians were shocked that the Prime Minister had the power to send our troops to war without the support of the United Nations, the Australian Parliament or the Australian people and without the Governor-General needing to authorise the decision. But presently, the Prime Minister, under the guise of Cabinet decision, and the authority of the Defence Act, has exactly that power.”

The Howard Government has been the first Government in our history to go to war without majority Parliamentary support. The PM put the issue to the Parliament after the decision had been made. This saw the Senate vote against the decision to commit Australian troops to war in Iraq at almost the same time as the bombs began to fall on Baghdad.

The Democrats have introduced legislation to take the decision to commit troops to overseas conflict out of the hands of the Prime Minister and a subservient and secretive Cabinet, and place it with the Parliament, with exceptions covering the movement of personnel in the normal course of their peacetime activities and the need to take swift action in an emergency.

“This initiative, as it does in other countries, would lead to a more reasoned basis for sending defence force personnel overseas, and ensure it occurs only where it has majority support outside the Cabinet,” Senator Bartlett said.

“Regardless of Mr Howard’s attempts to rewrite history, the facts speak for themselves. The Democrats said we should give the weapons inspectors more time to get to the truth; John Howard said we already had enough information to establish Australia was under immediate threat.

“The Executive should not be able to involve Australian troops in an overseas conflict if they have not been able to successfully make their case at least to the Parliament.

“Who do you want making the decision on whether Australia joins the next war? John Howard, Mark Latham, or the entire Parliament?” concluded Senator Bartlett.

Senator Bartlett will hold a doorstop to discuss the Defence Capability Plan, calls for a further inquiry into WMD evidence and interest rates at 12.30pm today

Foyer of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Offices

70 Phillip Street, Sydney

Copies of the postcards and accompanying petition are available from Democrat offices

For interview with Senator Bartlett contact Daele Healy on 0419 867 649