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Clinton Fernandes

A senior public servant writes that the history of corporations shows that there are ‘some things which a Government cannot do officially, and which are best accomplished when the people take the lead, while the State lends its support, remaining in the background until it is required to interfere’. This is ‘almost forgotten now in these days of international law, of diplomats, and of quick intelligence sent to headquarters by wire from the uttermost parts of the earth’.

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Unlike in the United States and several other Western nations, Australian governments are under no compulsion to consult parliament before sending troops to war. In Subimperial Power: Australian in the international arena, Clinton Fernandes argues that this reflects, and furthers, Australia’s longstanding ambition in foreign affairs, which is to demonstrate its usefulness to the United States. In this week’s ABR Podcast, Kevin Foster, an academic at Monash University who has published widely on war in the Australian media, reviews Subimperial Power

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When the Howard government committed Australian troops to fight in Afghanistan in 2001, and later in Iraq, it did so without recourse to parliament or the courts. Not only can the prime minister sanction the despatch of the nation’s forces to fight overseas, he or she has no need of parliamentary approval. Indeed, there is no requirement to debate such a proposal before a decision is made. Australia has no equivalent of the US War Powers Resolution of 1973, which limits the president’s freedom to make war. 

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Marise Payne’s recent speech to the United Nations General Assembly touted Australia’s support for ‘rules’ and ‘international law’ in creating a global order that works ‘for the benefit of all nations and people’. But are these really the guiding principles of Australian foreign policy ...

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