Fury over Iraq decision

Denison Independent MHR Andrew Wilkie
Denison Independent MHR Andrew Wilkie

TWO Tasmanian federal MPs are furious Prime Minister Tony Abbott has committed Australian aircraft to perform arms airlifts in the Iraq conflict without taking the matter to parliament.

Mr Abbott has agreed to a United States  request for Australia to transport weapons to Kurdish fighters battling Islamic State militants in Iraq.

The federal opposition has offered bipartisan support.

Denison Independent MHR Andrew Wilkie and Tasmanian Greens senator Christine Milne yesterday called on Mr Abbott to abandon all other parliamentary business when the House of Representatives sits today to debate the matter.

Mr Wilkie resigned from a post at the Office of National Assessments in 2003 in protest of Australia’s role in the Iraq war.

He said the government should expect community backlash from the decision, and the parliament should be consulted.

‘‘That is the only way the will of the Australian people will be tried and tested,’’ Mr Wilkie said.

‘‘It is way beyond time that we deshackled ourselves from US policy.’’

Senator Milne said the Greens would this week move to debate legislation that required the parliament to approve Australia’s involvement in wars.

‘‘It is more important than ever that the Prime Minister tells Australians what is the strategy here, what are we going to commit to,’’ Senator Milne said.

Bass Liberal MHR Andrew Nikolic, a former army brigadier and the first Australian national commander in southern Iraq in 2005, said there was no doubt the situation was a ‘‘humanitarian catastrophe and a security nightmare’’.

But Mr Nikolic said Australia’s support was timely and appropriate.

‘‘It is disappointing that the Greens are playing politics with this issue, when the priority should be on timely prevention of drastic consequences in Iraq,’’ Mr Nikolic said.

Tasmanian Labor senator Lisa Singh said Australia had a responsibility to protect civilian populations from potential genocide and ethnic cleansing.

‘‘But anything beyond that would require much more detailed discussion,’’ Senator Singh said.

The Royal Australian Air Force C-130J Hercules and C-17A Globemaster aircraft will conduct the arms airlifts alongside aircraft from Canada, Italy, France, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The move follows RAAF humanitarian supply airdrops to thousands of people stranded on Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq.


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