Responding to boat arrivals


Budget Review 2011-12 Index

Budget 2011–12: Responding to boat arrivals

Harriet Spinks, Janet Phillips, Elibritt Karlsen and Nigel Brew

Managing unauthorised boat arrivals

Much has been said in the media recently about the rising costs to the Australian Government associated with asylum seekers, and the Opposition has repeatedly criticised the Government for presiding over a budget 'blow out' in this area.[1] It is certainly true that these costs have been rising steadily over the last few years, and the 2011–12 Budget provides for another significant increase in expenditure. Most of this increase is in offshore asylum seeker management, which includes the costs associated with detaining unauthorised boat arrivals on Christmas Island, as well as regional cooperation and capacity building aimed at reducing the flow of unauthorised arrivals. Additionally, as more detainees have been moved from Christmas Island to detention centres onshore in order to deal with overcrowding, there are also some cost implications for the onshore detention network. Following the trend of the last several budgets, this Budget also provides significant funding, across several portfolios, aimed at combating people smuggling.

Offshore asylum seeker management

Expenditure on offshore asylum seeker management is accounted for under Program 4.3, Offshore Asylum Seeker Management in the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) portfolio. Administered items under Program 4.3 include Community and Detention Services, the Management and Care of Irregular Immigrants in Indonesia and Regional Cooperation and Capacity Building.  

The Budget provides a total of $1.05 billion for administered and departmental expenses under Program 4.3 in 2011–12.[2] This represents a significant increase from the $762.8 million for 2010–11 and the $304.3 million that was spent in 2009–10.[3] The 2009–10 Budget had anticipated that costs under Program 4.3 would increase in line with increasing numbers of unauthorised boat arrivals.[4] Consequently subsequent budget estimates have fallen short and have been revised to meet the costs of the increases in the number of arrivals in the last two years.[5]

Expenditure on the management of offshore entry asylum seekers provides for Community and Detention Services involving contracts for the provision of support, health and detention services for offshore asylum entrants in both community and detention environments on Christmas Island and the mainland. The estimate for Community and Detention Services for 2011–12 is $709.4 million (an increase of approximately $148 million from the $561.9 million spent in 2010–11).[6] Interestingly, the 2012–13 forward estimate is just $449.8 million, perhaps reflecting an expectation that unauthorised boat arrivals might decline.  

However, the projected increase in expenditure in Program 4.3 in 2011–12 is not solely attributable to detention services. The other two continuing administered items under Program 4.3 have also received a significant increase in funding in 2011–12. Management and Care of Irregular Immigrants in Indonesia has leapt from $3 million in 2010–11 to $17.9 million in 2011–12, while Regional Cooperation and Capacity Building has increased from $32.2 million in 2010–11 to $47.2 in 2011–12.[7]

Additionally, in the 2011–12 Budget, two new administered items have been added under Program 4.3. Refugee Status Determinations for Offshore Entry Persons has been allocated $107.7 million over four years 'to support the new process for determination of refugee status for offshore entry persons … [which] is part of the commitment made by the Government in response to the High Court decision that confirmed the availability of judicial review for offshore entry persons'.[8] The funding comprises $26.1 million over two years to DIAC for legal expenses, $8.2 million over four years for two additional Federal Magistrates and $73.4 million over two years for the Independent Protection Assessment Office.

The other addition to Program 4.3 is the new Regional Cooperation Framework, under which the Government has negotiated a bilateral agreement with Malaysia which will see the transfer of 800 irregular maritime arrivals to Malaysia. This will cost $75.9 million over four years.[9]

The table below shows how expenditure under Program 4.3 has increased over the last four years.

Program 4.3: Offshore Asylum Seeker Management

 

2008–09
(revised budget)

2009–10
(revised budget)

2010–11
(revised budget)

2011–12
(budget estimate)

Administered expenses

       

Community and detention services

$35.2 million

$149.4 million

$561.9 million

$709.4 million

Management and care of irregular immigrants in Indonesia

-

$5.0 million

$3.0
million

$17.9 million

Regional cooperation and capacity building

$17.0 million

$28.9 million

$32.2
million

$47.2 million

Returns and reintegration assistance packages

-

-

$5.0 million

$6.9 million

Refugee status determinations for offshore entry persons

-

-

-

$17.4 million

Regional cooperation framework

-

-

-

$26.3 million

Departmental expenses*

$59.2 million

$121 million

$160.7 million

$233.3 million

Total administered and departmental expenses for Program 4.3 Offshore Asylum Seeker Management

$111.5 million

$304.3 million

$762.8 million

$1.05 billion

Source: Immigration and Citizenship portfolio, Portfolio budget statements 2009–10 onwards.

*Departmental expenses include service delivery and policy advice and program design. These are not disaggregated by each administered component of Program 4.3 in the budget papers.

Onshore detention

Expenses for Community and Detention services onshore are provided under Program 4.2, Onshore Detention Network. In the 2010–11 Budget, total expenses for Program 4.2 (administered and departmental) were estimated at $93.8 million.[10] In the 2011–12 Budget, expenditure for 2010–11 has been revised down to $88.5 million. The estimated budget for 2011–12 is $90.2 million.[11] This stability in ongoing expenses for the onshore detention network may perhaps be explained by the fact that the costs associated with the management of asylum seekers who are transferred from Christmas Island to the mainland continue to be met from the budget for Program 4.3 Offshore Asylum Seeker Management.[12]

It is in the capital funding associated with the new facilities needed to accommodate the growing detention population that the increased costs to the onshore detention network are more visible. For the second successive year the Budget has provided capital funding to increase capacity in the detention network.[13] In the 2011–12 Budget $24 million has been allocated over two years in capital measures for two new detention facilities. This comprises $14.8 million for works to a defence facility at Pontville, Tasmania, and $9.2 million for works to a facility at Wickham Point in the Northern Territory.[14]

Preventing people smuggling

The Government has been under increasing pressure to address border security and people smuggling issues since September 2008 due to an increase in the number of unauthorised boat arrivals (also referred to as irregular maritime arrivals). In the 2009–10 Budget the Government allocated $654 million across several portfolios to fund a whole of government strategy to combat people smuggling.[15] This was followed by an investment of $1.2 billion to 'bolster Australia's border security' (mostly allocated to border and aviation security initiatives) in the 2010–11 Budget.[16]

In this Budget the Government has allocated funding across several portfolios for measures aimed at preventing and deterring people smuggling and irregular migration. This funding, largely for measures in the Immigration and Attorney-General's portfolios, signals continued government investment in border protection and people smuggling deterrence, building on funding provided for such measures in the previous two budgets.[17] The Regional Cooperation Framework referred to above is one such measure.

Much of the funding for specific enforcement measures announced in the 2011–12 Budget as part of the Government's response to people smuggling is for the continuation or extension of existing measures. It includes:[18]

  • $61.8 million over two years to the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (Customs) to extend until 30 June 2013 the lease of the Australian Customs Vessel, ACV Triton, which patrols Australia's northern waters
  • $3 million over two years to enable Customs to maintain the Government's anti-people smuggling communications campaign in source and transit countries
  • $10.8 million over two years to the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and $8.0 million over two years to Customs to maintain the deployment of AFP and Customs liaison officers to several key source and transit countries and
  • $15.3 million over two years to Customs to maintain aerial surveillance of Australia's northern waters (by commercial contractors).[19]

It is worth noting that one anti-people smuggling measure from the 2009–10 Budget—a two year ($11.3 million) package of specific funding for people smuggling prosecutions for the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP)—ceases on 30 June 2011.[20]

As at 15 March 2011 over 350 individuals had been arrested and charged with people smuggling offences.[21] During the period September 2008 and 23 February 2011, 118 crew members and an additional five people smuggling organisers were convicted of people smuggling offences.[22]  An interesting development of note documented in the 2011–12 budget papers is the significant increase in legal aid funding to the states for people smuggling cases for the 2010–11 financial year.

The Government provides legal aid funding to the states and territories for high cost Commonwealth criminal matters through the Expensive Commonwealth Criminal Cases Fund (ECCCF). The 2011–12 budget papers show that the Government has allocated $28.9 million over three years to the ECCCF to reimburse costs incurred by state and territory legal aid commissions in the provision of legal assistance in Commonwealth law-related cases, including people smuggling cases.[23]  This funding is comprised of $17.6 million for 2010–11 (in the 2010–11 Attorney General's Portfolio Additional Estimates this was specifically allocated for legal aid to combat people smuggling); $4.2 million for 2011–12; and $7.1 million for 2012–13.[24] As of 22 February 2011, all reimbursements from the ECCCF for people smuggling matters had been made to Legal Aid Western Australia where most of the people smuggling cases have been prosecuted.[25]

It would appear that, in future, much of the legal aid funding specifically for costly people smuggling, national security and drug-related Commonwealth cases will be allocated in the Budget to the ECCCF.[26] The use of ECCCF funds for this purpose ensures that legal aid commissions have access to separate funding for costly Commonwealth-related cases and do not have to divert resources from their normal legal aid caseloads:

The ECCCF is separately funded to ensure that Commonwealth criminal trials do not impact on the ability of legal aid commissions to provide legal assistance for other Commonwealth legal aid priorities ... allocation of monies from the ECCCF is at the discretion of the Department.[27]

Further details on legal aid funding can be found in the 'Legal Aid Commissions' brief in this Budget Review.



[1].       For example, see S Morrison, Boat arrival puts pressure on Government's blown out budget, media release, 6 May 2011, viewed 12 May 2011, http://www.scottmorrison.com.au/info/pressrelease.aspx?id=645

[2].       Australian Government, Portfolio budget statements 2011–12: budget related paper no. 1.12: Immigration and Citizenship Portfolio, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2011, p. 54, viewed 12 May 2011, http://www.immi.gov.au/about/reports/budget/budget11/pbs/2011-12-pbs-06-sec2-outcomes.pdf

[3].       Ibid.

[4].       As at 6 May 2011 there were 6715 people in immigration detention including 5069 on the mainland and 1645 on Christmas Island. Of this total, 6444 were irregular maritime arrivals. This compares with a total immigration detention population of 490 in April 2008, of which 7 were irregular maritime arrivals. Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC), Immigration detention statistics summary, 6 May 2011, viewed 20 May 2011,  http://www.immi.gov.au/managing-australias-borders/detention/facilities/statistics/  and Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Detention statistics summary, DIAC, Canberra, 4 April 2008.

[5].      Australian Government, Portfolio budget statements 2009–10: budget related paper no. 1.12: Immigration and Citizenship Portfolio, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2009, p. 78, viewed 12 May 2011, http://www.immi.gov.au/about/reports/budget/budget09/pbs/2009-10-pbs-full.pdf

[6].       Portfolio budget statements 2011—12: budget related paper no. 1.12: Immigration and Citizenship Portfolio, op. cit., p. 53.

[7].       Ibid.

[8].       Australian Government, Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2011–12, Commonwealth of Australia, 2011, p. 262, viewed 12 May 2011, http://www.budget.gov.au/2011-12/content/bp2/html/index.htm

[9].       Ibid,. p. 263. The bilateral agreement also provides for an additional 4000 places in the Humanitarian Program, which also has cost implications. See the Budget Brief Migration and Humanitarian Programs for more detail.

[10].     Australian Government, Portfolio budget statements 2010–11: budget related paper no. 1.12: Immigration and Citizenship Portfolio, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2010, p. 59, viewed 12 May 2011, http://www.immi.gov.au/about/reports/budget/budget10/pbs/2010-11-pbs-06-sec2-outcomes.pdf

[11].     Portfolio budget statements 2011–12: budget related paper no. 1.12: Immigration and Citizenship Portfolio, op. cit., p. 53.

[12].     Ibid., p. 50.

[13].     The 2010–11 Budget allocated $183.3 million over five years in capital funding, $143.8 million of which was for increased capacity at detention facilities (both offshore and onshore). Australian Government, Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2010–11, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2010, p. 326, viewed 12 May 2011, http://www.budget.gov.au/2010-11/content/bp2/html/index.htm

[14].      Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2011–12, op. cit., p. 346.

[15].     For more detail see Australia, Parliamentary Library, Budget Review 2009–10, Research paper, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 2009, viewed 18 May 2011, http://www.aph.gov.au/library/pubs/RP/BudgetReview2009-10/Immigration_BorderProtect.htm

[16].     For more detail see Australia. Parliamentary Library, Budget Review 2010–11, Research paper, no. 17, 2009–10, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 2010, viewed 18 May 2011, http://www.aph.gov.au/library/pubs/RP/BudgetReview2010-11/BorderProtection.htm

[17].     B O'Connor (Minister for Home Affairs and Justice), C Bowen (Minister for Immigration and Citizenship) and K Rudd (Minister for Foreign Affairs), Strengthening our borders through regional cooperation, media release, 10 May 2011, Canberra, viewed 12 May 2011, http://www.ag.gov.au/www/agd/agd.nsf/Page/
Publications_Budgets_Budget2011_MediaReleases_Strengtheningourbordersthroughregionalco-operation

[18].     Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2011–12, op. cit., pp. 95–99.

[19].     Ibid., p. 99.

[20].     Australian Government, Portfolio budget statements 2011–12: budget related paper no. 1.2: Attorney General's Portfolio, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2011, p. 409.

[21].     Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee, Answers to Questions on notice, Attorney General's Portfolio, Additional Estimates 2010–11, 22 February 2011, Question no. 25, viewed 17 May 2011, http://www.aph.gov.au/senate/committee/legcon_ctte/estimates/add_1011/ag/025_AFP.pdf Note: the answer to this question provides an appendix with a breakdown of cases by Suspected Illegal Entry Vessel (SIEV) and place of arrest at http://www.aph.gov.au/senate/committee/legcon_ctte/estimates/add_1011/ag/025_AFP_Attachment.pdf

[22].     Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee, Answers to Questions on notice, Attorney General's Portfolio, Additional Estimates 2010–11, 22 February 2011, Question no. 70, viewed 17 May 2011, http://www.aph.gov.au/senate/committee/legcon_ctte/estimates/add_1011/ag/070_SID.PDF

[23].     Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2011–12, op. cit., p. 103.

[24].     Australian Government, Portfolio Additional Estimates 2010–11, Attorney General's Portfolio, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2011, p. 16; and Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2011–12, op. cit., p. 103.

[25].     Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee, Answers to Questions on notice, Attorney General's Portfolio, Additional Estimates 2010–11, 22 February 2011, Question no. 71, viewed 17 May 2011, http://www.aph.gov.au/senate/committee/legcon_ctte/estimates/add_1011/ag/071_SID.pdf

[26].     Budget measures: Budget paper no. 2: 2011–12, op. cit., p. 103; and Portfolio budget statements 2011–12: budget related paper no. 1.2: Attorney General's Portfolio, op. cit., p. 30.

[27].     Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee, Answers to Questions on notice, Attorney General's Portfolio, Additional Estimates 2009–10, 22 February 2010, Question no. 136, viewed 17 May 2011, http://www.aph.gov.au/senate/committee/legcon_ctte/estimates/add_0910/ag/136_SID.pdf


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