Image for Parliament must be empowered to decide on Australia going to war

• Parliament must be empowered to decide on Australia going to war

Urgent legislation to change the way Australia decides to go to war should be passed this month.

Currently, the Prime Minister alone is responsible for the decision, which is usually taken in consultation with his or her “kitchen cabinet” of three or four top advisors. Those consulted are frequently the Deputy PM, the Attorney-General and the Treasurer, but any of the PM’s close inner circle may also be involved.

With President Donald Trump prepared to commit the US to unilateral action anywhere in the world, Australia has never needed an “opt out” capability more than we do today.

We have followed the UK and the USA slavishly and sheepishly into war for more than a century. It is time we legislated to ensure we have time and space to make a carefully-considered decision about going to war, Civil Liberties Australia believes.

The May Budget session of parliament should act as proposed by eminent law professor George Williams, Dean of Law at UNSW (and a CLA member).

“Parliament should pass a law requiring that it debate any proposal to commit Australian troops,” Prof Williams says.

“A decision by the Prime Minister to go to war should also be subject to a veto by a majority vote of both houses of the federal parliament. This would provide a much-needed circuit breaker, thereby reducing the possibility of Australia taking part in another inadvisable foreign conflict.”

Williams is dead right.

• Government plumps for censorship, ignoring 80-year-old lesson

Immigration won’t comment on exactly why it blocked the visa of a prominent Palestinian activist, other than to say “to protect the community from abuse or danger”.

Bassem Tamimi, 50, had his visa cancelled hours before he was due to travel to Australia, on the grounds his opinions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could provoke anger in the community. He was given permission to travel to Australia one day, but the next day the Department of Immigration and Border Protection revoked his visa.

Mr Tamimi had been invited to Australia for a speaking tour by the Palestine Action Group in Sydney, the Friends of Palestine in Perth and the Socialist Alternative’s Marxism Conference in Melbourne.

In 1934 and 1935, the federal government’s attempts to ban Jewish communist and anti-war activist Egon Kirsch from a speaking tour of Australia was instrumental in 1936 in the founding of civil liberties in Australia.