MOTIONS Iraq and Syria


Senator SESELJA (Australian Capital Territory): I would like to commence by putting on record my gratitude to our ADF personnel for the work that they do in keeping our country safe. I am sure that all Australians will join with senators in wishing them safety and good will in whatever they may be asked to do by the Australian government. Senator Milne expressed concerns about the experience in places like Afghanistan, and there is no doubt that in many ways we wish we had never gone into Afghanistan, but the Australian government, along with many other governments, responded to the horrific events of September 11—and to the fact that we saw a terrorist training ground in Afghanistan—and responded to the unacceptable threat that that posed. When I speak to ADF personnel about the role that they were asked to play and that they played, I do not hear warmongering—they are not people who are keen to go to war—but men and women who understand that sometimes it is necessary to actually confront evil. They are proud of the role that they have played in confronting that evil in many parts of the world, and I think we should be proud of the job they have done on our behalf.

 

 

When we debate this particular motion about suspending standing orders, there are a couple of issues to consider, and other senators have touched on them. One is about the correct role of parliament in relation to military deployments. I agree with what has been expressed by Senator Fifield, Senator Wong and Senator Conroy: that is, that the process whereby the executive government makes the decision as to if, when and how to deploy our military personnel is one that is held us in good stead. This is not a process that happens on a whim; this is a process that goes through detailed consultations at an executive level at the National Security Committee of Cabinet; and detailed consultations with the opposition, who, in this case, have been briefed right across the board and right along the way, and they have expressed their support. We do not have a situation where the processes are being ignored; this is a process that has been followed that for many years and is being followed in this particular circumstance. Other countries have different constitutional requirements and in some cases they have different processes. What we have here is a situation where the government has consulted with the opposition and will make decisions as an executive —and we are grateful to have the backing of the opposition for the process.

 

 

There are many opportunities for this place to debate military deployments, and that is a good thing. We are debating it here for half an hour, but there are ample opportunities for such  debates—we  can  list an issue on the Notice Paper, and there are many other mechanisms of the Senate that allow debate. I welcome such debates, and the Australian government welcomes such debates, but this attempt to suspend standing orders with no notice is unfortunately a stunt. It is not a serious attempt at a parliamentary debate; it is simply a bit of grandstanding by the Greens. I think that is unfortunate in the circumstances that we face this kind of grandstanding. There are plenty of opportunities and I would encourage any senator to take those opportunities but not to engage in these kinds of stunts. We should not have a situation with the executive government has to consult with the Greens in order to make a decision on the deployment of Australian military personnel. We have longstanding conventions; they have been followed; they have stood us in good stead; and I think this suspension should be rejected. (Time expired)