Immigration - Border protection and detention


Budget Review 2010-11 Index

Budget 2010–11: Immigration

Border protection and detention

Janet Phillips and Elibritt Karlsen

The Government allocated $654 million across several portfolios in the previous Budget ‘to fund a comprehensive, whole-of-government strategy to combat people smuggling and help address the problem of unauthorised arrivals’.[1] Since then the Government has been under increasing pressure to further address people smuggling issues due to a significant rise in the number of unauthorised boat arrivals—as at 13 May 2010, just over 4700 people have arrived in 100 boats since July 2009.[2]

In the 2010–11 Budget, the Government has stated that it ‘will invest $1.2 billion to bolster Australia’s border security’ to ‘build on the $654 million border protection and anti-people smuggling package in the 2009 Budget’.[3] This funding is spread across several portfolios—primarily Attorney General’s and Immigration and Citizenship.

It would appear that much of the $1.2 billion goes towards the continuation of existing or previously announced border and aviation security initiatives, such as $759.4 million over four years for enhanced policing at Australian airports; and funding for the replacement of ageing Customs (Border Protection Command) patrol vessels.[4]

The Government will provide $32.9 million over four years to strengthen Indonesia’s ability to manage irregular migration. Additional funding will also go to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations High Commissioner for refugees (UNHCR).[5] The Government outlines some of the detail in Budget Measures: Budget Paper No. 2: 2010–11:

This measure will support Indonesia's Directorate‑General of Immigration in managing irregular migration flows and combating people smuggling activities. The measure includes assistance to Indonesia to improve the integrity of their visa application determination and granting process, and the processing of involuntary returns; additional funding to the International Organisation for Migration to support the Indonesian Government in upgrading a number of immigration detention facilities; and extra funding to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for the processing of refugee status determinations.[6]

It is worth noting that although only 28 people smugglers have been convicted in Australia between 29 September 2008 and 25 February 2010, efforts to combat people smuggling on a regional level have been relatively successful according to the Minister for Home Affairs:

The Australian Federal Police continues to provide support to foreign law enforcement agencies in their efforts to combat people smuggling activities in the region. These close working relationships have resulted in a number of arrests and disruptions to people smuggling ventures in countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, and Sri Lanka. As a direct result of these strong working relationships, since September 2008, in Indonesia there have been 147 identified disruptions; 3813 foreign nationals detained by Indonesian authorities; and 87 arrests of facilitators/organisers.[7]

Other regional initiatives include $5.8 million over two years to deploy two DIAC officers to Afghanistan to ‘liaise with the Afghan Government and relevant international organisations to assist with the appropriate settlement and reintegration of returned Afghan nationals’.[8]

The Government had previously foreshadowed that it would be necessary to allocate more funding to immigration detention facilities, particularly Christmas Island given the rise in the number of boat arrivals.[9]

Budget estimates for community and detention services on Christmas Island; management and care of irregular immigrants in Indonesia; and regional cooperation and capacity building are provided under Program 4.3: Offshore Asylum Seeker Management. As predicted, in the 2010–11 Budget total expenses for Program 4.3: Offshore Asylum Seeker Management have been revised: 

  • 2009–10: $304.3 million (up from $125 million in the 2009–10 Budget), and
  • 2010–11: $471.2 million (up from $113.2 million in the 2009–10 Budget forward estimates).[10]

Annual administered expenses specifically for community and detention services on Christmas Island (for the provision of a range of support, health and detention services in community and detention environments to offshore entry people) were revised as follows:

  • 2009–10: $149.4 million (up from $60.6 million in the 2009–10 Budget), and  
  • 2010–11: $327.6 million (up from $53.5 million in the 2009–10 Budget forward estimates).[11]

The 2010–11 Budget has allocated $202 million over five years to increase capacity, maintain and upgrade service delivery and upgrade infrastructure in both onshore and offshore immigration detention facilities including capital funding for several immigration detention facilities as outlined in Budget Paper No. 2:

The measure provides for funding of $143.8 million for increased capacity at immigration detention facilities. The measure also provides capital funding for a number of upgrades and enhancements to essential amenities and security at existing facilities, consisting of $22.0 million for Christmas Island, $15.0 million for the Northern Immigration Detention Centre in Darwin, $1.5 million for Villawood in Sydney and $1.0 million to upgrade existing residential facilities at Port Augusta (South Australia) for unaccompanied minors.[12]

An allocation of $800 000 goes to the Commonwealth Ombudsman over two years to continue ‘external independent scrutiny of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship’s processing of refugee claims’.[13]

Many press reports since the Budget was announced have claimed that $1 billion or more will go towards processing and detaining ‘boat people’.[14] Although there has been a significant increase in funding for offshore asylum seeker management; an increase in funding to manage irregular migration in Indonesia; and funding allocated to increase capacity and upgrade infrastructure in immigration detention facilities; most of the $1.2 billion identified for strengthening border security in this Budget will go to aviation security initiatives.

For further details of the aviation security measures funded in the Budget see Border Security—Passenger and air cargo security by Morag Donaldson in the ‘Security’ section of this Budget Review.


[1].    B Debus (Minister for Home Affairs), $1.3 billion to combat people smuggling and strengthen Australia’s national security, media release, 12 May 2009, viewed 11 May 2010, http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;query=Id%3A%22media%2Fpressrel%2FGELT6%22. For further analysis of the 2009–10 Budget border protection measures see Parliamentary Library, Budget review 2009–10, Research paper, no. 33, 2009–10, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 2009, viewed 12 May 2010, http://www.aph.gov.au/library/pubs/rp/2008-09/09rp33.pdf

[2].    J Phillips and H Spinks, Boat arrivals in Australia since 1976, Background note, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 2010, viewed 11 May 2010, http://www.aph.gov.au/library/pubs/BN/sp/BoatArrivals.pdf

[3].    Australian Government, Budget strategy and outlook: budget paper no. 1: 2010–11, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2010, p.1-30; and C Evans (Minister for Immigration and Citizenship) and B O’Connor (Minister for Home Affairs), Budget: strengthening Australia’s border security, budget statement, 11 May 2010, viewed 12 May 2010, http://www.minister.immi.gov.au/media/media-releases/2010/ce02-budget-10.htm

[4].    Evans and O’Connor, Budget: strengthening Australia’s border security, op. cit.

[5].    Ibid.; and Australian Government, Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2010–11, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2010, p. 263.

[6].    Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2010–11, op. cit., p. 263.

[7].    Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, Answers to Questions on notice, Immigration and Citizenship Portfolio, Additional Estimates 2009–10, 8 February 2010, Question 61, viewed 14 May 2010, http://www.aph.gov.au/senate/committee/legcon_ctte/estimates/add_0910/ag/061_AFP.pdf; and B O’Connor, (Minister for Home Affairs), Border protection command intercepts two vessels, media release, 10 May 2010, viewed 11 May 2010, http://www.ministerhomeaffairs.gov.au/www/ministers/oconnor.nsf/Page/MediaReleases_2010_SecondQuarter_10May2010-BorderProtectionCommandInterceptsTwoVessels

[8].    Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2010–11, op. cit., p. 267.

[9].    Australian Government, Portfolio budget statements 2009–10: budget related paper no. 1.12, Immigration and Citizenship Portfolio, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2009, p. 78; Portfolio additional estimates statements 2009–10: Immigration and Citizenship Portfolio, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2009, Table 1.2, pp. 12 and 35; and C Evans (Minister for Immigration and Citizenship), Curtin to hold suspended asylum seekers, media release, 18 April 2010, viewed 13 May 2010, http://www.minister.immi.gov.au/media/media-releases/2010/ce10030.htm

[10]. Australian Government, Portfolio budget statements 2010–11: budget related paper no. 1.13, Immigration and Citizenship Portfolio, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2010, pp. 59–60; and Portfolio budget statements 2009–10: Immigration and Citizenship Portfolio, op. cit.

[11]. Ibid.

[12]. Evans and O’Connor, Budget: strengthening Australia’s border security, op. cit.; Budget strategy and outlook: budget paper no. 1: 2010–11, op. cit., pp. 1-30–1-31; and Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2010–11, op. cit., pp. 101 and 327. Funding has also been provided under the Attorney General’s Portfolio for infrastructure and services for the Christmas Island community. For further details see Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2010–11, op. cit., p. 101.

[13]. Evans and O’Connor, Budget: strengthening Australia’s border security, op. cit.; and Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2010–11, op. cit., p. 284.

[14]. For example see B Packham and I McPhedran, ‘Boat people to cost taxpayers $1 billion’, Herald Sun, 12 May 2010, viewed 13 May 2010, http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;query=Id%3A%22media%2Fpressclp%2FPCOW6%22; and  ‘Cost of Christmas Island blows out to almost $1 billion’, Sydney Morning Herald web page, viewed 11 May 2010, http://www.smh.com.au/business/federal-budget/cost-of-christmas-island-blows-out-to-almost-1b-20100511-uurg.html


[1].    Australian Government, A National Health and Hospitals Network: further investments in Australia’s health, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2010, viewed 14 May 2010, http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/nhhn-report-2

[2].    A similar scheme for veterans with chronic conditions, managed through the Department of Veterans Affairs, was also announced in this Budget.

[3].    The budget figures in this brief have been taken from the following document unless otherwise sourced: Australian Government, Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2010–11, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2010.

[4].    For a discussion on the tobacco excise increase, refer to the brief by Dr Matthew Thomas; for a discussion of the workforce initiatives affecting primary care, refer to the brief by Dr Rhonda Jolly.

[5].    For example, some doctors expressed concern that Medicare Locals could undermine their independence. See, A Cresswell, ‘Doctors slam Medicare Locals’, The Australian, 13 May 2010, p. 7, viewed 13 May 2010, http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;query=Id%3A%22media%2Fpressclp%2FWROW6%22

[6].    A National Health and Hospitals Network: further investments in Australia’s health, op. cit, p. 49.

[7].    K Rudd (Prime Minister), N Roxon (Minister for Health), $436 million to take pressure off our hospitals by delivering personalised care for diabetics, media release, 31 March 2010, viewed 14 May 2010, http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;query=Id%3A%22media%2Fpressrel%2FKEEW6%22

[8].    P Smith, ‘The end of fee-for-service?’ Australian Doctor, 9 April 2010, p. 3, viewed 14 May 2010, http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;query=Id%3A%22library%2Fjrnart%2FAXFW6%22

[9].    Andrew Pesce, President of the Australian Medical Association, quoted in A Kollmorgen, ‘Behind the diabetes scheme’, Medical Observer, 23 April 2010, p. 19, viewed 14 May 2010, http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;query=Id%3A%22library%2Fjrnart%2F98JW6%22; also K Rudd and N Roxon, op cit.

[10]. Australian Medical Association, Policy on the run will disadvantage people with diabetes, media release, 31 March 2010, viewed 14 May 2010, http://www.ama.com.au/node/5442  

[11]. Diabetes Australia, New funding for personalised care for people with diabetes, media release, 31 March 2010, viewed 14 May 2010, http://www.diabetesaustralia.com.au/Media-Centre/Media-Releases/New-Funding-for-Personalised-Care-for-People-with-Diabetes/

[12]. M Metherell, ‘Labor fails to tackle alcohol and junk food giants’, The Age, 13 May 2010, p. 3, viewed 13 May 2010, http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;query=Id%3A%22media%2Fpressclp%2F8SOW6%22


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