Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Parliament should decide

Yesterday John Key began laying the groundwork to deploy kiwi troops to Iraq to fight in another pointless American war. And with the Labour Party distracted by its autocannibalism, its left to Winston Peters to stand up for democratic values and argue that Parliament should decide:

New Zealand First Leader Rt Hon Winston Peters is calling for a vote in Parliament on whether New Zealand should have military involvement in the fight against ISIS in Iraq.

“We are gravely concerned that Prime Minister John Key is steering New Zealand towards involvement. He is bowing to pressure, as can be seen as he steers away from his previous comments.

“In June he effectively ruled out participation by saying that Iraq is ‘not a place New Zealand wants to be’. He said we had paid a ‘heavy price’ for being involved in Afghanistan, which New Zealand would not repeat ‘in a hurry’.

“Now Mr Key is saying he is looking at options.

“Committing our Defence Force to a new Middle East war should not be decided on the hoof, this is a matter of serious importance, and all members of Parliament must decide.

I agree with Winston. War isn't a trivial matter. Its significant enough that it requires a democratic stamp of approval. And in our democracy, that means that Parliament should debate and vote on it, and the government should obey. In practice, given our strong party system the government should have no trouble winning such a vote if it can convince its own MPs. But democratic principles require that it make the case publicly and win Parliamentary approval before sending troops to fight overseas.

We don't live in the C18th anymore. In theory, we no longer wage war for the entertainment and personal aggrandisement of the monarch. The age of absolute monarchy is well behind us. And its time our constitutional conventions on foreign policy caught up with that fact.