Saturday, May 24, 2014

Follow-up letter to the Prime Minister



Note by Paul Barratt

Having received no answer to my 13 March 2014 letter to the Prime Minister, seeking the establishment of an independent inquiry into Australia’s involvement in the Iraq War, and a commitment from Australia’s elected representatives to reforming the so called ‘war powers’, on 16 May I sent a follow-up letter, the text of which appears below.

Standards of courtesy to citizens making representations to Government are certainly slipping. When I worked in his Department R.F.X. (‘Rex’) Connor, the Whitlam Government’s Minister for Minerals and Energy, much reviled and maligned by conservatives both then and now, set a standard for his Department which required that all people who wrote to him receive and acknowledgement more or less by return mail, and a substantive reply within 21 days. In those days anyone who wrote to a Minister received a reply signed personally by the Minister – never by someone writing on his behalf.

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16 May 2016

The Hon. Tony Abbott MP
Prime Minister of Australia
Parliament House
CANBERRA ACT 2001



Dear Mr Abbott,

I refer to my letter of 13 March 2014 in which I sought, on behalf of our membership, the establishment of a comprehensive inquiry into the process by which the Government of the day made the decision that Australia would be a participant in the 20 March 2003 invasion of Iraq. Such an inquiry would establish, inter alia, a basis for a public discussion of the appropriateness of Australia’s current ‘war powers’, which concentrate power in the executive branch, and provide a framework for reforming how the decision is made to go to war.

We are disappointed that we have not as yet had a reply from you on these important matters. We believe it is important to discover the lessons to be learned from the as yet unclear processes that led Australia to become involved in a war that was both illegal and based, at least publicly, on the premise widely understood to be false at the time, that Iraq was in possession of Weapons of Mass Destruction.

I would reiterate the view expressed in my earlier letter that, given the gravity of any decision to commit the Australian defence force to international armed conflict, the Australian people are entitled to know how that decision was made, and what evidence informed the decision. The Australian Government owes to those it puts in harm’s way a duty to evaluate the quality of the processes by which it decides to put them in harm’s way, to identify and document the lessons learned, and improve the decision making process for the future.

As matters stand, while Britons will have the chance to learn from past decisions once the Chilcot Inquiry hands down its recommendations, Australians will still be deprived of a comprehensive account of the processes leading to our involvement in Iraq. As noted above, an independent inquiry into the decision making process which led to Australia’s involvement in the Iraq War would also allow for a public discussion of the appropriateness of Australia’s current ‘war powers’, which concentrate power in the executive branch. This could provide a framework for reforming how the decision is made to go to war. The current process produced very flawed decisions in relation to Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq, and is clearly overdue for careful reconsideration.

Accordingly, the Campaign for an Iraq War Inquiry urges you to establish an independent inquiry into Australia’s involvement in the Iraq War, and also give a commitment on the part of the Government to reforming the ‘war powers’.
Yours sincerely,



Paul Barratt AO
President

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Saturday, May 17, 2014

Letter to the Commonwealth Attorney-General


Note by Paul Barratt

On 13 March I wrote to the Attorney-General in terms similar to my Letter to the Prime Minister, seeking the establishment of an independent inquiry into Australia’s involvement in the Iraq War, and a commitment from Australia’s elected representatives to reforming the so called ‘war powers’, i.e., the power to deploy elements of the Australian Defence Force into international armed conflict, which we would like to see relocated from the Executive to the Parliament.

In response to this I received a letter from the Minister for Defence who said that he was replying on behalf, inter alia, of the Attorney-General, “as this matters (sic.) falls within my portfolio”, from which I infer that the Attorney-General or his advisers regard the matters raised as not touching upon the Attorney-General’s responsibilities.

Accordingly, I have sent the following letter to the Attorney-General.

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Campaign for an Iraq War Inquiry Inc
PO Box 2228
Malvern East Vic 3145


16 May 2014


Senator the Hon. George Brandis, QC
Attorney-General
Parliament House
CANBERRA ACT 2600



Dear Senator Brandis,

I refer to my letter to you of 13 March calling for an independent inquiry into the process by which the Government of the day made the decision that Australia would participate in the 20 March 2003 invasion of Iraq, and for reform to the processes by which we make decisions to deploy elements of the Australian Defence Force into international armed conflict.

I recently received a letter from the Defence Minister, who was replying on your behalf on the basis that the matters raised fall within his portfolio responsibilities.

I must say that I and my fellow members are astonished that you apparently regard the following matters:
  •  Decisions about whether or not to establish a major independent inquiry (judicial or Parliamentary);
  • The processes by which we make decisions about the deployment of the Australian Defence Force into international armed conflict; and
  • The ways in which the decision-making process might be strengthened
as having no bearing on your portfolio responsibilities. Indeed, apart from the fact that the powers of the Parliament are a matter for all Parliamentarians, one of the reforms that I and several of my colleagues would like to see would be a requirement not only that Parliamentary approval be required for any deployment into international armed conflict, but that the Attorney-General be required to certify that the proposed military action is lawful before it is authorised.

Regarding the need for an inquiry, we believe it is important to discover the lessons to be learned from the as yet unclear processes that led Australia to become involved in a war that was both illegal and based, at least publicly, on the premise widely understood to be false at the time, that Iraq was in possession of Weapons of Mass Destruction.

I would reiterate the view expressed in my earlier letter that, given the gravity of any decision to commit the Australian defence force to international armed conflict, the Australian people are entitled to know how that decision was made, and what evidence informed the decision. The Australian Government owes to those it puts in harm’s way a duty to evaluate the quality of the processes by which it decides to put them in harm’s way, to identify and document the lessons learned, and improve the decision making process for the future.


As matters stand, while Britons will have the chance to learn from past decisions once the Chilcot Inquiry hands down its recommendations, Australians will still be deprived of a comprehensive account of the processes leading to our involvement in Iraq. As I said in my earlier letter, an independent inquiry into the decision making process which led to Australia’s involvement in the Iraq War would also allow for a public discussion of the appropriateness of Australia’s current ‘war powers’, which concentrate power in the executive branch. This could provide a framework for reforming how the decision is made to go to war. The current process produced very flawed decisions in relation to Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq, and is clearly overdue for careful reconsideration.


Accordingly, the Campaign for an Iraq War Inquiry urges you to support not only an independent inquiry into Australia’s involvement in the Iraq War, but also a commitment on the part of the Government to reforming the ‘war powers’.

Yours sincerely,



Paul Barratt AO
President

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Reply to the Minister for Defence


Note by Paul Barratt

On 13 May 2014 I wrote to the Minister for Defence in response to his 23 April reply to my letter of 13 March (see Reply from the Minister for Defence).

The text of my letter appears below:

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Campaign for an Iraq War Inquiry Inc
PO Box 2228
Malvern East Vic 3145


13 May 2014


Senator the Hon. David Johnston
Minister for Defence
Parliament House
CANBERRA ACT 2600



Dear Senator Johnston,

Thank you for your letter of 23 April 2014, on behalf of the Deputy Prime Minister, the Hon. Warren Truss MP; the Minister for Employment, Senator the Hon. Eric Abetz; and the Attorney-General, Senator the Hon. George Brandis, as well as yourself, in response to my letter of 13 March calling for an independent inquiry into the process by which the Government of the day made the decision that Australia would participate in the 20 March 2003 invasion of Iraq, and for reform to the processes by which we make decisions to deploy elements of the Australian Defence Force into international armed conflict.

The first point to be made is that we are not seeking, as stated in the response, an inquiry into Australia’s participation in the Iraq War, we are seeking, as my letter made clear, an independent inquiry into the decision making process which led to Australia’s involvement in the Iraq War.

I must say on behalf of our organisation’s members that we are surprised and disappointed that you would be so dismissive of the suggestion that the Australian Government, like the Government of the United Kingdom, should convene an inquiry to discover the lessons to be learned from the as yet unclear processes that led Australia to become involved in a war that was both illegal and based, at least publicly, on the premise widely understood to be false at the time, that Iraq was in possession of Weapons of Mass Destruction.

We are equally disappointed that, while you referred us to the article Parliamentary involvement in declaring war and deploying forces overseas, your reply was silent on the substance of the matter of the reform of the so-called “war powers”. We believe that Australian Governments owe it both to the young Australian men and women who might to be placed in harm’s way, and to the wider Australian public, to ensure that any deployment decisions involving international armed conflict are made only upon the most robust and transparent basis, and our principal motivation in calling for an inquiry into the decision making processes leading up to the Iraq deployment was the hope and expectation that this inquiry would make recommendations for a more robust decision-making process in the future.

I am surprised that you would cite the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security’s 2004 report Inquiry into Intelligence on Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction (the “Jull Report”) and the 2004 report of the subsequent Inquiry into Australian Intelligence Agencies (the “Flood Report”) in support of the view that a further inquiry is not required. While this might look to the less-informed observer like an answer to our call for an inquiry, it is not, and by failing to mention the thrust of these inquiries’ findings, it is grossly misleading.

The first point to be made is that these inquiries, as their names suggest, were confined by their terms of reference to the intelligence picture which was available to the Australian Government and an examination of the performance of the Australian intelligence agencies. They were not charged with conducting, and nor did they conduct, inquiries into the decision-making process which led to Australia participating in the invasion of Iraq.

Second, the outcomes of these inquiries are hardly conducive to confidence in the decision-making process which led to that invasion. The Jull Inquiry found

The case made by the government was that Iraq possessed WMD in large quantities and posed a grave and unacceptable threat to the region and the world, particularly as there was a danger that Iraq’s WMD might be passed to terrorist organisations. This is not the picture that emerges from an examination of all the assessments provided to the Committee by Australia’s two analytical agencies.[1]

The Inquiry led by former DFAT Secretary Philip Flood found that the evidence for Iraqi WMD was ‘thin, ambiguous and incomplete’[2].

Accordingly, far from obviating the necessity for a further inquiry, we think the outcomes of these inquiries strengthen the case for a comprehensive inquiry of the kind we are advocating.

I would reiterate the view expressed in my earlier letter that, given the gravity of any decision to commit the Australian defence force to international armed conflict, the Australian people are entitled to know how that decision was made, and what evidence informed the decision. The Australian Government owes to those it puts in harm’s way a duty to evaluate the quality of the processes by which it decides to put them in harm’s way, to identify and document the lessons learned, and improve the decision making process for the future.

As matters stand, while Britons will have the chance to learn from past decisions once the Chilcot Inquiry hands down its recommendations, Australians will still be deprived of a comprehensive account of the processes leading to our involvement in Iraq. As I said in my earlier letter, an independent inquiry into the decision making process which led to Australia’s involvement in the Iraq War would also allow for a public discussion of the appropriateness of Australia’s current ‘war powers’, which concentrate power in the executive branch. This could provide a framework for reforming how the decision is made to go to war. The current process produced very flawed decisions in relation to Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq, and is clearly overdue for careful reconsideration.

Accordingly, the Campaign for an Iraq War Inquiry urges you to support not only an independent inquiry into Australia’s involvement in the Iraq War, but also a commitment on the part of the Government to reforming the ‘war powers’.

Yours sincerely,



Paul Barratt AO
President



[1] Commonwealth of Australia Parliament, Intelligence on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (“Jull Report’), Parliamentary Joint Committee on ASIO, ASIS and DSD, December 2003, 93.
[2] Commonwealth of Australia, Report of the Inquiry into Australian Intelligence Agencies (“Flood Report”), Canberra, 2004, 34.

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Monday, May 12, 2014

Andrew Farran to the Minister for Foreign Affairs


On 28 April CIWI’s Treasurer, former diplomat and international law academic Andrew Farran, sent the following letter to the Minister for Foreign Affairs:

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The Hon. Julie Bishop, MP                                                                           
Minister for Foreign Affairs
P.O. Box 6022
House of Representatives
Parliament House
CANBERRA A.C.T. 2600                                                                 


April 28, 2014

Dear Minister Bishop,

I heard your address at Villers-Bretonneux on Anzac Day and was impressed by its sincerity. War, of course, is a serious business. Even more serious is the decision-making process for getting into war in the first place.

WW1 and WW2 speak for themselves, both in the historical context, and that in each case Australia was responding to aggression which threatened our own freedom and security. Korea too, as it had ramifications arising from the Pacific War. It also had UN sanction. Afghanistan had UN sanction to deal with Al Qaeda, but it went further from there which was a mistake. But Vietnam and Iraq were quite different as we were engaging in internal matters not of our concern and because we felt obligated to the US, not under the Alliance but for political reasons.

If political reasons are to be a justification for entering another's war it would seem appropriate to recall your remark at Villers-Bretonneux where you noted the extent to which war touches Australian families, as it did so enormously in both World Wars.

Where there is no clear case of aggression against the country, or clear and present danger, Australian families and their representatives should have a real say in any decision to go to war. The government alone – elected on other issues – is not best placed to make this decision. It cannot be assumed that it alone is in possession of all relevant facts, which would be the case if Parliament as whole, with the benefit of public opinion, were engaged fully in the process.

It cannot be denied now that the manner in which Australia became involved in the drawn out, indecisive Iraq war was a decision taken in effect by a cabal of Ministers to please the then US President (with emotion). This was no way to make such critical decisions.

I seek your support with others for a review of the war-making powers in Australia so that previous disasters in this area may be avoided in future. I note that there are clear moves in this direction in the UK with respect to their own war-making powers.

Yours sincerely,

ANDREW FARRAN

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Reply from the Minister for Defence


Note by Paul Barratt

On 13 March 2014 I wrote to the Minister for Defence, in terms similar to my Letter to the Prime Minister, seeking the establishment of an independent inquiry into Australia’s involvement in the Iraq War, and a commitment from Australia’s elected representatives to reforming the so called ‘war powers’, i.e., the power to deploy elements of the Australian Defence Force into international armed conflict, which we would like to see relocated from the Executive to the Parliament.

I have now received his reply, the text of which is reproduced below.

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MC14-000701


Mr Paul Barratt AO
Iraq War Inquiry Group Inc.
PO Box 2228
MALVERN EAST VIC 3145



Dear Mr Barratt

Thank you for your correspondence of 13 March 2014 to the Deputy Prime Minister, the Hon Warren Truss MP; the Minister for Employment, Senator the Hon Eric Abetz; and the Attorney-General, Senator the Hon George Brandis regarding calls for an inquiry into Australia’s participation in the Iraq War. As the matters falls within my portfolio responsibilities, your correspondence has been passed to me for response.

Questions relating to the decision to send the Australian Defence Force to Iraq have previously been examined by Parliamentary inquiries. On 1 March 2004, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, the Australian Secret Intelligence Service and the Defence Signals Directorate tabled a report on the Intelligence on Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction. The 2004 Flood Report on Australian Intelligence Agencies included intelligence in relation to Iraq. Separately, thorough inquiries into the conduct of the Australian Defence Force, with particular reference to detainee management, were held in 2004 and 2005.

As such, I do not consider a further review or inquiry into Australia’s military commitment to the war in Iraq is required. I also note the previous Australian Government’s stated position that an inquiry into the Iraq War was not required. Australia is committed to a long-term partnership with the Iraqi Government to help build a secure and prosperous future for Iraq. The Government continues to work with the Iraqi Armed Forces through our Defence Cooperation Program, which provides officer training and English language training.

In relation to your suggestion for reforming the ‘war power’, you may find the article, Parliamentary involvement in declaring war and deploying forces overseas, a useful summary of relevant issues. This article outlines relevant domestic and Constitutional provisions and considers the role of the Australian Parliament when there is a declaration of war by Australia. This article is available at:

I trust this information will be of assistance.

Yours sincerely



David Johnston
23 April 2014

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