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Overheated war talk is irresponsible – Parliament must decide

Media Release

69 prominent Australians have signed an open letter to the Prime Minister Scott Morrison calling for a full parliamentary debate and vote before any new commitment to fighting overseas wars.

The letter is signed by several high-profile Australians including former Liberal leader John Hewson, former Labor minister Melissa Parke and the Lord Mayor of Sydney Clover Moore.

It also includes many historians and multiple ex diplomats including Richard Butler AC, former Ambassador to the United Nations.

The call follows several irresponsible comments about a potential war over Taiwan by Peter Dutton, Mike Pezzullo and some media pundits.

The full letter, published by Australians for War Powers Reform is below.

Open letter to the Prime Minister of Australia

With multiple military and defence commentators offering increasingly bleak assessments of the possibility of armed conflict, now is the time to carefully consider Australia’s position.

Australian military forces are to be withdrawn from the 20-year conflict in Afghanistan that produced indifferent results at great cost. Repeating the experience now with another such deployment is neither rational nor necessary.

A major war today would be very different from past wars. Today a single weapon can cause massive destruction of life and property and permanent contamination of the environment. No current threat to Australia justifies taking such a risk.

The human and financial costs involved in deploying troops overseas are immense and require sound decision making and clear, realistic goals.

In the past these life and death decisions have been made without reference to the views and wisdom of the wider community as expressed by its representatives in Parliament.

The way in which governments decided on military interventions in the past will not do for the future.

If a new proposed deployment becomes a reality, the reasons for it should be fully disclosed before any decision is taken by the Prime Minister and the executive.

The stakes are too high for another ill-judged decision by the Prime Minister alone, as we saw with Iraq and Afghanistan.

Australia should not automatically follow U.S. foreign policy priorities.

Our defence and foreign policies should be fully independent and based on our own best interests.

To ensure this, the House of Representatives and the Senate must have a considered debate followed by a vote on any proposed involvement by Australia in another overseas war.



Dr Chris Aulich; Retired Professor of Public Administration, University of Canberra

Greg Barns SC; Former National President, Australian Lawyers Alliance

The Honourable Emeritus Professor Peter Baume AC DistFRSN

Andrew Bartlett; Former Senator

Allan Behm; Director, International & Security Affairs program, The Australia Institute

Professor Frank Bongiorno AM

Susan Biggs; Sydney Peace Foundation

Dr Alison Broinowski AM; Former diplomat

Richard Broinowski AO; Former diplomat

Dr David Brophy; Senior Lecturer in Modern Chinese History, University of Sydney

Dr Scott Burchill; Senior Lecturer Deakin University

Richard Butler AC; Former Ambassador to the United Nations, Chief UN weapons inspector in Iraq

Helen Caldicott; Founding President, Physicians for Social Responsibility, 1985 Nobel Peace Prize

Emeritus Professor Joseph A. Camilleri OAM; La Trobe University

Dr Susan Carland; Monash University

Dr Eileen Chanin; Author

Joe Collins; Australia West Papua Association

Paul Daley; Author and journalist

Professor Phillip Deery; Historian

Andrew Farran; Former diplomat, law academic and currently company director

Professor Raelene Frances AM; Dean and professor of history, ANU

Bill Gammage; Humanities Research Centre, ANU

Sam Gazal; Company Director

Bruce Haigh; Former diplomat and political commentator

Michael Hamel-Green; Emeritus Professor, College of Arts & Education, Victoria University

Professor John Hewson; ANU

Dr Marianne Hanson DPhil Oxon; Associate Professor of International Relations, University of Queensland

John Hughes (PhD. FAHA); Filmmaker, Adjunct Professor RMIT

Brendon Kelson; Director, Australian War Memorial, 1990-1994

Tony Kevin; Author and former senior Australian diplomat

Dr Julie Kimber; Senior lecturer, Swinburne University

Dr Kristine Klugman OAM; President Civil Liberties Australia

Mary Kostakidis; Journalist

Professor Marilyn Lake AO, FAHA, FASSA; Professorial Fellow in History, University of Melbourne

Antony Loewenstein; Independent journalist, author and film-maker

Ian Lincoln; Former diplomat

Scott Ludlam; Former Senator

Gavin McCormack; Emeritus Professor ANU

Dr Michael McKinley; International relations expert

Dr Ross McMullin; Historian and biographer

John Menadue AO; Publisher

Kellie Merritt; Widow of Flight Lt Paul Pardoel, killed in Iraq

Rachel Miller; Author

Geoff Miller AO; Former Australian diplomat

Professor Rob Moodie AM; School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne

Clover Moore; Lord Mayor of Sydney

Douglas Newton; Historian

Tim O’Connor; Amnesty International Australia

Sally O’Neill; Historical Researcher, Australian Dictionary of Biography, ANU, retired

Bob O’Neill; Professor of Strategic and Defence Studies Emeritus, ANU

Tony Palfreeman; International relations expert

Melissa Parke; Former Minister for International Development

The Hon. M. A. Pembroke

Dr Carolyn Rasmussen; Historian and biographer

Professor Henry Reynolds; Historian

Dr Jamal Rifi AO; Muslim community leader and GP

Henry Rosenbloom; Publisher, Scribe Publications

Tilman Ruff AO; Co-President, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, Founding Chair, International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons

Professor Charles Sampford, DPhil Oxon; Barrister at Law, Foundation Dean of Law and Director, Institute for Ethics, Governance and Law

Professor Ben Saul; Challis Chair of International Law, University of Sydney

Professor Bruce Scates; Professor of History, ANU

Professor Peter Stanley, FAHA; UNSW Canberra

Professor Richard Tanter; School of Political and Social Science, University of Melbourne

Kellie Tranter; Lawyer and human rights activist

Robert Tickner AO; Ambassador for ICAN Australia (International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons), Former Government Minister

Peter Timmins; Australian Press Council Press Freedom Medal 2017

Noel Turnbull; Honorary Doctor of Communication RMIT University

Dr Sue Wareham OAM; President, Medical Association for Prevention of War

Ernst Willheim; Visiting Fellow ANU College of Law


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  1. New England Cocky

    Aw shucks guys & gals ….. all those signatures only come from academics who live on the fat of the land that should truly be the sole preserve of politicians and their corporate ”political donors”. I mean what would they know having been hidden away in ivory towers studying rather than doing the wheeling & dealing that composes present day Australian politics as created by Little Johnnie Howard & Prince Rupert of Newsland.

    There will never be a prosecution of COALition politicians for treachery or treason, so why should we worry about long term consequences of our uncaring, self-serving, dipping into the Parliamentary Allowances Scheme for every possible dollar to supplement our overly generous Retirement Package??

    And war with PRC China will demonstrate to the world that Australia is lead by turkeys without any knowledge about anything which must be good for corporate Australia and our military suppliers in the US NE Military Industrial Complex.

  2. John Boyd

    ‘…good for corporate Australia and our military suppliers in the US NE Military Industrial Complex.’ Only good until it actually happens! Presumably these people are counting on wiser heads prevailing when it gets close to crunch time, but meanwhile they have cleaned up cashing in on the populist fear driven policies of the politicians they support so well.

  3. Neil

    These academics don’t get it – Scummo doesn’t take advice. Throw the puto out

  4. ajogrady

    This is a good start


  5. Andrew J. Smith

    This issue is perplexing and suspended in mid air while our allies are not even talking about war?

    These academics must realise or better, interrogate Morrison et al., for their lazy and threatening talk to produce paranoia, fear and anxiety by nativist agitprop to ageing voters (think also why he is hanging onto national border closures for the same reasons, catering to and/or spooking the oldies), aided and abetted by media and narratives to encourage for more LNP support…… then defence industries profit too.

  6. Phillip Benson

    A bit out there but here goes,, don’t some of these Fundamentalist, Religeous, Child fondling, nutters actually believe that God will save them after the great Armageddon. To have one of these types at the helm and his buddies talk of War, is just plain suicidal.

  7. GL

    Whenever the ravings of politicians, particularly right wing rabble, start on war I’m almost always reminded of –

    Which seems still as relevant as it was in 1970 with regards to war hawk pollies.

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