ANTI-war activist Michael Smith, who walked through Tumut and Batlow in November last year in an effort to introduce war-preventing legislation, has garnered support from an unlikely source – One Nation.
Mr Smith walked from his home town of Chewton in Victoria last year to Parliament House in Canberra carrying a piece of proposed legislation that would make it harder for an Australian Prime Minister to commit Australia to war.
“Under the Defence Act of 1903, the Prime Minister can involve Australia in a war without consulting parliament and without getting or even seeking parliamentary approval,” he said in Tumut on November 16 last year.
Before he left on his walk, Mr Smith wrote to senators and parliamentarians about his plans.
“When I was at the Oriental Hotel in Tumut, I got a call from One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts,” Mr Smith said.
“He said ‘I didn’t know this until I got your letter’. He supported the campaign and he met be on the lawn of Parliament House when I arrived.
It is the first time a party on the right has declared such support.
There is now a chance that a majority agreement can be reached. This is a breakthrough.
In the Senate on February 9, Senator Roberts, speaking in response to the Greens’ Defence Legislation Amendment (Parliamentary Approval of Overseas Service) Bill of 2015 said the following:
“I do respect the Greens and agree with the Greens’ need for greater accountability on this issue. The principle that members of parliament and senators, who collectively represent all the citizens of this wonderful country, should be aware of the circumstances under which war-like operations are authorised by the government of the day is a very reasonable proposal.”
“Senator Roberts has three former defence staff on his Parliamentary team,” Mr Smith said.
“It is great getting people from parties on different sides of politics to work together.”
In the Senate on February 9, Senator Roberts added: “When we listen to our constituents, the people are upset with decisions like going to Iraq and going to Vietnam – automatically just following – without consultation. I can recall Alexander Downer, after he retired from federal Parliament, stating that, when the 9/11 event occurred in New York in 2001, John Howard returned, spoke to the cabinet and said ‘We are going to Iraq’. That was it. That is not good enough. The public want discussion of these things. They want to be consulted. They want to know their views are understood.”
Sen. Roberts said Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party would propose three amendments. The first calls on the government to provide confidential briefings to members and senators in the event of authorising any deployment.
”The virtues of this amendment largely speak for themselves,” Sen. Roberts said.
The second removes the requirement that the authority of the parliament is required for any military action.
“We believe this would compromise Australia’s ability to defend itself,” he said.
One Nation’s third amendment requires the government, three months after the use of military force, “to have a debate in parliament on the merits of the military action – to have a review.”
“These amendments seek to ensure that the government is subsequently accountable to the broader legislature for its decisions and allows all members and senators a say in the continuation of any such military action,” Senator Roberts said.
“Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party is concerned about our young men and women, who are sent to defend our country. We have been listening to people who have returned from action is a very sad state. As one of them said to me, our country ‘sends them, bends them but doesn’t mend them’. We are aware of the threats that these people face, and we understand, as they do, that security must dominate. These young men and women deserve complete respect and our accountability before we send them overseas.”
The Australian Democrats first proposed such legislation in 1985 and there have been several attempts since, the most recent the Greens’ Bill of 2015.