Defence Legislation Amendment (Parliamentary Approval of Overseas Service) Bill 2014 - 04/09/2014


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (10:51): I just wanted to make a very brief contribution to this. Most of the arguments have been related by my colleagues and I know we are keen to have a parliamentary vote on the suggestion put forward by Greens political party. But can I just reiterate the points that the two coalition senators have made—and two senators who, I might add, have very long and distinguished military records and who actually understand what is required to embark upon any military operation.

Clearly cabinet and the security committee of cabinet have information on which to make decisions that we in this chamber cannot have, obviously, for obvious reasons. I have to say that at times I have disagreed with decisions made by the government. I remember telling John Howard that I thought it was wrong for us to go into Timor. I told him that in a lift all those years ago, just after Australia had gone there. Fortuitously, I was wrong and he was right and our intervention in Timor proved to be the right one. I was always concerned about the impact on our relationship with Indonesia. But, as I say, cabinet at that time made the right decision. Why they made it? Because they had all of the information, not just the information that I was reading in the public press.

Similarly, I would certainly hope that we do not get into a position where we do commit Australian troops to the current conflict in the Middle East. It is difficult for many of us to understand the connection between Australia and what might be happening internally in almost a civil war in a country a long way away from us. But, again, I make those comments without the benefit of the intelligence, of the arguments that the Prime Minister and cabinet must take into account—our relationships with our allies, the different things that are happening that we in this chamber and most Australians simply cannot be party to. So it is clearly essential that the government of the day, whoever it may be—and fortuitously it will never be the Greens political party—has to make decisions basing it on all the information they have but of necessity cannot share with others.

To have a long, drawn-out debate in this chamber would just be absolutely futile and it is unbelievable that it might be suggested. Senator Ludlam was saying in his contribution, leaving it to the crossbenchers, how outrageous that someone should question that the crossbenchers should make a decision and went on to say that there would be a failure if the Prime Minister could not convince the crossbenchers. Cannot I tell you, Senator Ludlam, as you know from your days in coalition with the Labor Party in government, deals are made. I regret to say that in the last couple of days the coalition, to get through essential processes, has had to make deals with some of the crossbench. I have to say to you, Senator Ludlam, that I am a bit uncomfortable with some of those deals that have been made. But you are suggesting that will go to war and make a deal. 'If you vote us going to war, we'll set up this inquiry into the Queensland government for you.' Or, 'We'll cut the GST off fresh food just to get it through.' Is this the sort of deal-making you want to do commit to the defence of Australia? We know what the Greens political party view on border security is like: open up the borders and let anyone in who wants to come. Heaven forbid that they were ever in a position to make a decision on the defence of Australia and the welfare of the Australian people.

I repeat: I and others will not always be absolutely 100 per cent happy with the decisions that are made, but we have to leave it to those people who have all of the information, who have to take a global view, a whole-of-Australia view on decisions to be made for the protection of our country and our people. For that reason I think the current situation must continue. I endorse the words of Senator Fawcett, Senator Conroy and Senator Reynolds and I would urge that this bill be rejected.

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