Law enforcement and crime prevention

Budget Review 2014–15 Index

Cat Barker

Law enforcement agency staffing

In the 2008–09 Budget, the Government committed $25.0 million over five years for a retention and recruitment program for the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and $191.9 million over the same period to deliver an additional 500 sworn AFP officers.[1] In the 2012–13 Budget, it deferred the recruitment target for additional sworn officers by a year in order to save $25.9 million over three years.[2] The Coalition was critical of this delay when in opposition.[3] However, in the 2014–15 Budget, the Government has announced it will save $42.5 million over four years by ceasing the additional recruitment altogether and reclaiming the unspent funding from the two 2008–09 Budget measures.[4] It will save a further $11.7 million over the same period through increased efficiencies in the AFP.

The Coalition was also highly critical of Labor Government cuts to Commonwealth law enforcement agencies more broadly, stating that the agencies ‘cannot be expected to continue to do less with more’.[5] The Government delivered on its promise to restore Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (Customs) funding for port boarding and cargo inspections, cut by the Labor Government in its 2008–09 Budget, by providing $88.0 million in the 2013–14 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO).[6] It has also delivered some additional funding for the AFP and Customs for counter-people smuggling measures.[7] However, average staffing levels for Customs and the Australian Crime Commission are forecast to continue to decline in 2014–15.[8] The average staffing level of the AFP (excluding ACT Policing), which rose by 197 from 2012–13 to 2013–14, is forecast to decline by 335 in 2014–15, from 5,596 to 5,261.[9]

National Anti-Gang Squad

In the 2013–14 Budget, the Labor Government provided $64.0 million to the AFP to establish a National Anti-Gang Taskforce (NAGT) and an Australian Gang Intelligence Centre, and to supplement the Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce.[10] The NAGT was to be comprised of strike teams in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne and liaison officers in Darwin, Perth and Adelaide.[11] When it formed government in September 2013, the Coalition re-badged the initiative as the National Anti-Gang Squad (NAGS) and brought forward the start date so the three strike teams were operational by late November 2013.[12] In the 2014–15 Budget, it has provided a further $10.2 million over three years to establish an additional strike team in Western Australia. The funding will come from the Confiscated Assets Account (see below under Crime prevention programs).

Airport policing

In line with a recommendation of the Federal Audit of Police Capabilities, airport policing began transitioning in December 2009 from the Unified Policing Model, under which the AFP and state and territory police shared responsibility, to the ‘All-in’ model, under which the AFP would be responsible for policing at Australia’s eleven major airports.[13]

In the 2011–12  MYEFO, the Labor Government announced it would save $16.4 million over four years by withdrawing the AFP from aviation policing at Alice Springs Airport, drawing criticism from the Shadow Minister for Justice, Customs and Border Protection for neglecting its responsibilities and weakening national security and border protection.[14] In the 2014–15 Budget, the Coalition Government will save $22.0 million over four years by withdrawing the AFP from Hobart Airport and handing over responsibility for its security to the Tasmanian Police Force. No information is provided in the 2011–12 MYEFO or the 2014–15 Budget on any assessment of the possible security implications of these changes.

Crime prevention programs

While it is traditionally more of a state and territory government responsibility, federal governments of both persuasions have been providing funds for community crime prevention initiatives through grants programs for a number of years. In the 2008–09 Budget, the Labor Government ‘redirected’ funding from the Coalition-initiated National Community Crime Prevention Programme towards its own Safer Suburbs Program, and established a Schools Security Program.[15] Similarly, in the 2014–15 Budget, the Government will redirect and supplement funding allocated to the Labor-initiated National Crime Prevention Fund (NCPF) and Secure Schools Program to its own programs. The Safer Streets Programme will receive $50.0 million over four years, partially offset by ceasing the NCPF. The Schools Security Programme will receive $18.0 million over three years, $10.0 million of which has been redirected from the Secure Schools Program.

One source of funding for crime prevention programs is the Confiscated Assets Account (CAA), which is estimated to have a balance of $90.18 million at the end of the 2013–14 financial year. [16] Section 298 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 allows the Australian Government to use money confiscated under the Act and the proceeds of confiscated assets to fund crime prevention and law enforcement measures, measures relating to drug addiction treatment and diversionary measures relating to illicit drug use.[17] While the previous Government continued to draw on the CAA to make a series of small grants, it deferred payments of $90.3 million in the 2011–12 and 2012–13 Budgets so funds could be diverted to other priorities.[18] In the 2013–14 Budget, it committed $40.9 million from the CAA to the new NCPF.[19] The current Government has stated that in the 2014–15 Budget it is increasing expenditure from the CAA by $61 million over four years. However, around two-thirds of that total appears to have already been committed from the CAA by the previous Government under the NCPF.

[1].           Australian Government, Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2008–09, 2008, pp. 84, 89, accessed 16 May 2014.

[2].           Australian Government, Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2012–13, 2012, p. 82, accessed 16 May 2014.

[3].           M Keenan (Shadow Minister for Justice, Customs and Border Protection), Labor’s dismal record on law and order, media release, 3 March 2013, accessed 16 May 2014.

[4].           The budget figures have been taken from the following document, unless otherwise sourced: Australian Government, Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2014–15, 2014, accessed 16 May 2014.

[5].           M Keenan (Shadow Minister for Justice, Customs and Border Protection), Labor failing to get the message on border security, media release, 25 May 2012, accessed 16 May 2014; Labor’s dismal record, op. cit.

[6].           J Hockey (Treasurer) and M Cormann (Minister for Finance), Mid-year economic and fiscal outlook 2013–14, accessed 14 May 2014.

[7].           C Barker, ‘Counter-people smuggling measures’, Budget review 2014–15, Research paper, 2013–14, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 2014, accessed 16 May 2014.

[8].           Australian Government, Portfolio budget statements 2014–15: budget related paper no. 1.11: Immigration and Border Protection Portfolio, 2014, p. 97, accessed 15 May 2014; Australian Government, Portfolio budget statements 2014–15: budget related paper no. 1.2: Attorney-General’s Portfolio, 2014, p. 113, accessed 16 May 2014.

[9].           Portfolio budget statements 2014–15: budget related paper no. 1.2: Attorney-General’s Portfolio, op. cit., p. 132; Australian Federal Police (AFP), Annual report 2012–13, AFP, 2013, accessed 16 May 2014.

[10].         C Barker, ‘Organised crime and crime prevention’, Budget review 2013–14, Research paper, 3, 2012–13, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 2013, accessed 16 May 2014.

[11].         J Gillard (Prime Minister) and J Clare (Minister for Justice), Transcript of press conference, media release, 3 March 2013, accessed 16 May 2014.

[12].         M Keenan (Minister for Justice), NSW Strike Team to combat gang crime, media release, 22 November 2013, accessed 16 May 2014.

[13].         B O’Connor, (Minister for Home Affairs), Australian Federal Police to lead airport security across Australia, media release, 29 December 2009, accessed 16 May 2014.

[14].         W Swan (Treasurer) and P Wong (Minister for Finance and Deregulation), Mid-year economic and fiscal outlook 2011–12, accessed 16 May 2014; M Keenan in Liberal Party of Australia Western Australia Division, Labor again targets AFP in national security cutbacks, media release, undated, accessed 16 May 2014.

[15].         Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2008–09, op. cit., pp. 88, 405.

[16].         Australian Government, Agency measures: budget paper no. 4: 2014–15, 2014, p. 90, accessed 19 May 2014.

[17].         Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, accessed 16 May 2014.

[18].         ‘Organised crime and crime prevention’, op. cit.

[19].         Ibid.; J Gillard (Prime Minister) and J Clare (Minister for Justice), National Crime Prevention Fund, media release, 12 April 2013, accessed 16 May 2014.


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