Independent Nick Xenophon backs a Greens push for parliamentary debate on Australia’s growing involvement in Iraq, which now extends to the airlift of weapons to Kurdish fighters.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has announced the RAAF’s involvement in the supply of military equipment to anti-Islamic State fighters, prompting calls from the Greens and independent Andrew Wilkie for parliament to be suspended.
They want MPs to debate Australia’s involvement in Iraq, and say parliament should have a say in any military deployment.
Mr Abbott has rejected the idea as “novel”, and defended the decision making process involving the National Security Committee and cabinet.
I’ve got absolutely no reason to doubt that the government is handling this at the moment.
Senator Xenophon said while he supported the airlift, “at the very least” there should be a parliamentary debate on Iraq.
“I think it’s important that if we follow the US we follow them after looking at all the facts,” he told ABC radio on Monday.
“In the United States troops cannot be deployed to war unless there’s a vote of the congress, of both houses, that could be a model that we follow.”
However, Family First Senator Bob Day dismissed talk of a parliamentary debate.
“I’ve got absolutely no reason to doubt that the government is handling this at the moment,” Senator Day told ABC radio.
“These are not exceptional circumstances. We’ve got quite some experience now in the Middle East.”
Royal Australian Air Force C-130J Hercules and C-17A Globemaster aircraft will be involved in a weapons airlift to northern Iraq, which also includes the United States, Canada, Italy, France and Britain.
Fairfax newspapers are reporting SAS soldiers will provide protection to the aircrews involved in the missions.
However, Mr Abbott has played down talk that Australian troops could be sent into the country, saying there was no role “envisaged” for boots on the ground.
The Greens have warned of “mission creep” in Iraq, but Mr Abbott said no request for troops or airstrikes had been made by the Iraqi or US governments.
Any request for further military involvement would be considered against a number of criteria, the prime minister said.
That includes whether there was an achievable objective and clear role for Australian forces, and whether there was an overall humanitarian purpose.