The Bulletin for Australians for War Powers Reform.
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17 May 2015

Dear members and supporters, 

This Bulletin focusses on:
  • AWPR’S new book, “How Does Australia Go To War?”, to be released shortly;
  • US “mission creep” in Australia, sensor net around China, and silence on Australia’s own national interests;
  • Budget announcement of official histories of the East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan wars;  
  • Dangerous Allies: the 2nd national conference of the Independent and Peaceful Australia Network, Brisbane, July 9.
As ever, we welcome your feedback. Australians for War Powers Reform will continue to promote the need for parliamentary involvement in any decision to send Australian troops to war.
Please help us to share these items using our social media pages, blog and website. If you can make a donation towards our new book it will be greatly appreciated.
AWPR NEW PUBLICATION “How Does Australia Go To War?”

AWPR Vice-President Dr Alison Broinowski has edited a new book comprised of a collection of short chapters on Australia’s history of repeatedly joining wars and the need for serious examination of why and how. 

The book will be dedicated to the late Rt. Hon Malcolm Fraser, who was one of our campaign’s most ardent supporters. He writes in the Preface,

"The way we went to war in 2003, as one of three members of the Coalition of the willing, with the United States and the United Kingdom, represented a betrayal of democratic standards and a betrayal of Australian values.” 

The chapters, written by experts in their fields, examine other historical examples, including the 1914 decision, who Australia consults with, comparison with other  democracies, alliance ideology, the joint military facilities in Australia, our “middle power war-mongering”, the problem of mission creep once ADF troops are deployed, options for change, ways of avoiding “Anzackery” and future wars, and why war powers reform is needed.
A copy of the book will be sent to every federal parliamentarian, and it will be available online and in print for all interested Australians.

Our POZIBLE funding appeal to enable us to do this has not quite reached its target.  Please support this publication financially, via Pozible
A big thanks to those who have already contributed. (Double dipping is permitted if you can spare a bit more!).
The ABC reported last week that Assistant US defence secretary David Shear told a Congressional hearing that B1 bomber aircraft were to be deployed to Australia, to beef up US capacity to respond to Chinese moves in the South China Sea.  While subsequent reports stated that the official “mis-spoke” , the episode suggests that such deployments are fairly and squarely on the Washington agenda.
PM Abbott’s response, "I understand that ……the US does not have any plans to base those aircraft in Australia"
 is true to form for Australia.  Abbott failed to even hint that we might have a view on the matter, let alone that we have independent interests from our ally. Read more...
The PM and his government have offered no analysis of where Australia’s interests lie in the growing US militarisation, along with Japan, over regional territorial disputes with China, particularly in the South China Sea.  U.S. military facilities at Pine Gap, Darwin and elsewhere in Australia, and the fact that Australian military personnel are embedded in U.S. Command positions and warships in the Pacific, would mean that should armed conflict begin in this area Australia would automatically be involved. 
How therefore could we possibly exert a sophisticated and independent diplomatic stance on these vital issues in our region, where we have distinct interests of our own vis a vis both China and Japan, if we have already sold the pass unconditionally to the US? The Australian economy is closely integrated with both Japan and China. Indeed in the case of China it is virtually dependent on China's economy and goodwill. That is not the case with or for the US.
The risk of escalation of clashes with China, at sea or in the air, was highlighted in another recent report, by Hamish McDonald writing in The Saturday Paper on April 18 (“Japan and US enclose Chinese coast within sensor net”
).  McDonald cites a new book by Desmond Ball and Richard Tanter, “The Tools of Owatatsumi”, which details a network of undersea detectors around South-East Asia from the Bay of Bengal to Japan.  The result is that Chinese submarines could not move from either the East China Sea or the South China Sea into the Pacific Ocean without being detected, which could increase the pressure on either side for military escalation in the event of a crisis.  Australia is losing the capacity to keep out of such situations.
Our principal interest should lie in the promotion of a rules-based approach to dispute resolution, contributions to regional stability and security through cooperation, and investing in the efforts of regional groups such as ASEAN to resolve disputes peacefully through negotiation.  As a good friend and ally of the US, we should be discussing how the US can achieve long-term strategic balance with China without resorting to provocative force deployments.
The PM would do well to consider whether there is such a thing as an official Australian independent opinion on defence matters.  That’s all the more reason the country needs at least the possibility of some tough questions on them being raised, in the institution that exists for debating the big issues - our parliament.
OFFICIAL WAR HISTORIES: at what point will they start and finish ?  

Fairfax Press has highlighted the $13 million allocated in the national budget for the writing of  seven volumes of official histories of Australia's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and its peacekeeping operations in East Timor. (Read more...)

Historian Professor Peter Stanley, President of Honest History, commented that the works should not ignore the important events leading up to the conflicts, but would have to look at the reasons Australia became involved in them.  Professor Stanley noted that the readiness to do this will be “a serious test of the legitimacy of this project”.

Campaign for an Iraq War Inquiry member Kellie Merritt, whose husband Paul Pardoel was killed in Iraq, agrees, stating that commemoration of a nation's military history risks a serious credibility deficit if the country is not also prepared to examine how it got into its military conflicts in the first place.  Kellie was speaking to a packed audience on Anzac eve in Melbourne at an event organised by the Medical Association for Prevention of War, and spoke passionately of the human costs of war.  Her speech can be heard here.

The announcement of this project stands in stark contrast to the refusal of both major political parties to consider an inquiry into the process by which Australia joined the 2003 invasion of Iraq. 

When the Campaign for an Iraq War Inquiry was launched in August 2012, Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Defence Minister Stephen Smith and the latter’s predecessor Robert Hill, who was Defence Minister when Australian troops were sent to Iraq, all promptly dismissed the call for an inquiry. Stephen Smith told ABC TV at the time that lessons had been learnt. ''You always learn lessons from a former or previous conflict,'' he said, in what can only be described as a serious case of wishful thinking. 

PM Abbott appeared to have learnt nothing last year when he committed Australia to yet another US- led military campaign in Iraq, with frequently shifting goalposts and no end-point. 

The histories should examine Australia’s decision-making process in 2003, the strong opposition to our involvement in that war and the subsequent calls for war powers reform.  In addition, the impacts on service people (both those who returned and those who did not) and their families, and the impacts of the wars on civilians in the three countries are a critical part.  Any accounting of what we have achieved militarily as a nation must examine the human and other costs involved.
DANGEROUS ALLIES: Independent and Peaceful Australia Network national conference, Brisbane, July 9.

Registrations are open, at, for IPAN’s 2nd national conference, to be held at the Queensland Council of Unions on July 9.  

Senator Scott Ludlam, Professor Richard Tanter and Professor Kozue Akibayashi will address why our "Dangerous Allies" are threatening our security and why we need an independent and peaceful national agenda.

The conference will be preceded by a Public Forum at the State Library on Wed July 8 at 6.30 pm. 
The views expressed in this Bulletin are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of Australians for War Powers Reform or the Campaign for an Iraq War Inquiry (Inc). Readers should note that both Australians for War Powers Reform and the Campaign for an Iraq War Inquiry (Inc) seek a diversity of views and opinions in order to identify common ground.
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