My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for Tuesday 22 August 2017: Parliament should decide if we go to war, not just the PM

by ray goodlass

At the time of writing it seems that both President Trump and North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un have toned down their war-mongering rhetoric and so for the moment at least we are spared the threat of a nuclear Armageddon.

However, my topic this weak isn’t so much the dangers posed to the world by vainglorious, unhinged and delusional leaders, but rather the dangerous foolishness of two related local news stories. Firstly that Australian defence forces will join US-Korean war games, and secondly a very prompt announcement from PM Turnbull that Australia would honour its ANZUS treaty commitments and join the US in any military action it might embark on.

Defence Minister Marise Payne told the ABC that just over two dozen ADF members would take part in the annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian war games.

Rather naively, she played down the chances of the games provoking a response from North Korea. “I think given their regularity and history, they should not be seen in any way as a provocative exercise” she said with a straight face. Really?

Next week’s planned military exercises have already sparked protests in the South Korean capital Seoul, and are again expected to draw condemnation from North Korea. Indeed, following last year’s Ulchi-Freedom Guardian, the North conducted a nuclear test.

To add to the dangerous chest-beating going on, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull last week quickly confirmed that Australia would join the US in any conflict with North Korea if it carries out its threat to fire missiles towards the strategic American territory of Guam in the Pacific.

However, not all Australian political parties are ready to jump on the war making bandwagon. Indeed the Australian Greens called for a War Powers act so that our Prime Minister could not commit us to war without Parliamentary approval.

Richard Di Natale, joined by Greens Defence Spokesperson Sen. Peter Whish-Wilson said “Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s decision to commit Australian troops to a possible war against North Korea puts Australia at risk and shows why Parliament needs to urgently pass a war powers act and renegotiate the alliance with the United States”.

As they pointed out, our alliance with the United States is making us less safe, not more, and this war of words with North Korea is the latest and most frightening example. Donald Trump is completely unhinged and his irresponsible rhetoric is putting the entire world in danger.

Nuclear war is a nightmare scenario that must be avoided at all costs, not a bargaining chip to be tossed around in the media by Trump, Turnbull or Tony Abbott. Any responsible leader would be seeking to calm the situation, not inflame it, and risk nuclear war.

“Malcolm Turnbull’s decision to unilaterally offer Australian military support in a war with North Korea – a position that could drag us into the middle of a nuclear war – is exactly why Parliament must urgently pass a war powers bill so that decisions of this magnitude aren’t being made by just one person,” Di Natale said.

“Australia doesn’t need a missile shield, no matter what Tony Abbott says. The best way Australia can protect itself in this situation is to distance itself from Donald Trump’s belligerent statements,” Whish-Wilson added.

Indeed, we need to be working towards a world free of nuclear weapons, not joining a nuclear arms race that risks spiralling out of control. Now is the time for all sides in this conflict, including China and Russia, to come back to the table and seek a peaceful solution to the crisis.