Review: Charting our Own Course: Questioning Australia’s Involvement in Us-led Wars and the United States Alliance
The results of a People’s Inquiry by the Independent and Peaceful Australia Network
The primary aim of this Inquiry was to build dialogue and pressure for change to develop a truly independent foreign policy for Australia. The Inquiry focused on eight broad areas, each with an expert panel leader who compiled a chapter and recommendations for the final report. The eight areas were: Impact on First Nations People; Social and Community; Political including Democratic Rights; Environment and Climate Change, Military and Defence, Economic; Foreign Policy and Unions and Workers’ Rights.
Submissions from members of the public were received between November 2020 and September 2021. In total 283 groups or individuals provided submissions. The final report was tabled in Parliament, and launched in Parliament House in November 2022.
The full report is now available to read or order here. IPAN is working to get copies into the hands of all federal politicians, and to encourage journalists to write about it. Copies will also be made available to libraries and universities across the country.
Kellie Tranter, a lawyer and journalist who chaired the Inquiry, highlighted the following points in her summary:
- The report imagines citizens placed alongside Parliament at the centre of Australia’s defence and foreign policy decisions, in achieving an independent policy through reason, diplomacy and common sense.
- For too long Australia has facilitated US hegemony and engaged in fighting and losing wars for which there is little popular support, and at huge personal and national cost. As a result Australia has lost international standing and respect for our values and domestic governance systems.
- ‘Australia must decide what it wants in the world, work out how to get there, and take steps to achieve these goals’. The report shows various ways in which this can be done.
- War is a choice rather than an inevitability.
- An independent Australian foreign policy would increase
the likelihood of resolving trade conflicts through diplomacy and mutual goodwill.
- The proposals put forward in the report would mark Australia as a peaceful nation whose people aim to cooperate with all countries in a multipolar world. The only hope for humanity is a unified spirit of international cooperation.
- This report is a roadmap for the people and governments of Australia.
Using the Report
The Report is a most valuable resource for peacemakers. It contains up-to- date contributions from a wide range of people throughout Australia, and it shows clearly the strong desire by most of them for a change of approach by our political, bureaucratic and academic establishments. It is also a challenge for all committed to a peace-oriented foreign policy to implement the changes proposed in the Report. And to go further in our advocacy for non-military solutions.
There is scope for widening the dialogue opportunities with our fellow citizens, and for entering the public debate in whatever ways we can. We can present a vision of what is possible, giving examples of creative responses to fear and violence. We need also to practice positive peace in our personal relationships and groups.
Some specific options for follow-up of the Report:
- Gather with others in a study group over an agreed time period to share the Report in detail, identifying the areas for possible action, and devising plans for personal and combined steps.
- Focus on a particular strand of the Inquiry, explore it in depth, gathering information and insights from those involved in that area of life. This could lead to preparing audio-visual material to share more widely, and to ideas for advocacy.
- Publicise the Report through newsletters etc and encourage people to get hard copies or on-line versions, then enable the sharing of responses through webinars or workshops.
- Consult IPAN about inviting any of the authors of the Report to an on-line discussion about their area of concern.
- Use social media to draw attention to the Report and its findings, as a way of broadening awareness and generating interactions.
- Make contact with political representatives to make clear your responses to the Report, to ensure they are aware of it, and to put forward action proposals.
- Join organisations that are working for the same kinds of changes as the Report outlines, e.g. United Nations Association, War Powers Reform Group, Pax Christi, Australian Religious Response to Climate Change, aid agencies, human rights and refugee groups, International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), Medical Association for the Prevention of War, Just Peace, Friends of the Earth, War Resisters International.
- Learn about the location and activities of arms manufacturers in your region, visit their premises and make clear your views about their presence.
- Maintain contact with IPAN through joining the mailing list for its regular newsletter ‘Voice’ here
QPLC is interested in any feedback from Friends about the Report and its recommendations as we will continue to seek ways to follow-up on the Report.
David Purnell and Margaret Clark, Quaker Peace and Legislation Committee.