The 2015–16 Budget contains several measures relating to
border protection and counter-people smuggling. While most include additional
funding, none are entirely new measures. Rather, they continue existing
measures due to expire or represent savings realised from 2014–15 Budget
The consolidation of the Australian Customs and Border
Protection Service (Customs) into the Department of Immigration and Border
Protection (DIBP) and the establishment of the Australian Border Force (ABF)
were announced in May 2014. Legislation to establish
the ABF from 1 July 2015 has been passed by both Houses of
The 2014–15 Budget allocated $480.5 million over
four years for the consolidation and associated reforms, with more than half
the total from existing portfolio resources. The Government stated at
the time that the measure would produce ‘hundreds of millions in savings’ that
would be reinvested back into the ABF, but those savings were not detailed in
the 2014–15 Budget. The savings foreshadowed
last year are reflected in the 2015–16 Budget, which indicates the
Government will save $270.1 million over four years.
However, it does not appear they are necessarily being reinvested back into the
ABF. The description of the measure states the savings will be ‘redirected by
the Government to repair the Budget and fund policy priorities’, while a note
in the Portfolio Budget Statement indicates $70 million of the total will
be ‘reinvested for reform activities’ in the measure outlined below.
The 2015–16 Budget measure ‘Strengthen and enhance
Australia’s border protection—further measures’ builds on the
$480.5 million in the 2014–15 Budget and a measure in the Mid-Year
Fiscal and Economic Outlook (MYEFO). A further $151.9 million over four
years will go to the DIBP for:
initial work towards new technologies to manage travellers’
biometric data and visa information
a trial and rollout of new eGates at major international airports
and three seaports (funding towards this measure was included under a
counter-terrorism package in the 2014–15 MYEFO) and
additional equipment and training for the ABF.
The funding for particular components has not been fully
detailed. A Budget media release indicates $93.7 million over five
years will go towards the ‘Seamless Traveller’ initiative, which covers the
rollout of SmartGates and new eGates with biometric capabilities, and that $5.6 million
will go towards a pilot phase of a ‘Trusted Trader Programme’.
Neither initiative is mentioned directly in Budget Measures: Budget Paper No. 2:
2015–16, and both appear to have originated under Customs’ Blueprint for
The measure also includes an additional $12.9 million
over four years for the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity. The
Commission’s jurisdiction already includes Customs; from 1 July 2015
it will oversee the whole of the DIBP.
Separate measures include a further ‘restructure’ of the
Import Processing Charge (IPC) and licence charges that will generate
$107.6 million in additional revenue over four years (the IPC was last increased
in the 2013–14 Budget), and $26.2 million
over four years (including $2.3 for the Department of Agriculture) to establish
permanent border clearance services at Townsville and Sunshine Coast airports
to support international flights.
Counter-people smuggling and
Funding in the 2015–16 Budget for counter-people smuggling
activities and maritime surveillance is directed at extending or expanding existing
measures. It comprises the following:
$53.8 million over two years for Defence to cover the net
additional cost of extending Operation Resolute to the end of June 2016. This
operation targets a range of maritime security threats, but the significant
increase in the net additional cost since it was expanded at the commencement
of Operation Sovereign Borders (OSB) may indicate that most of the resources
are currently focused on dealing with irregular maritime arrivals.
$74.3 million over five years from 2014–15 to increase the
patrol days of the Australian Customs Vessel (ACV) Ocean Shield from 180
to 300 days annually from 2015–16 to 2017–18, and to continue patrols for 180
days in 2018–19. A total of $92.9 million was included in the 2014–15
MYEFO to ‘repurpose and transition ownership’ of Ocean Shield from
Defence to Customs from 1 July 2014 (instead of
1 July 2016) and extend the lease for the ACV Triton by six
months to the end of 2014–15. Additional funding
towards extending leases, increasing patrols and replacing vessels has been a
regular feature of budgets handed down since 2009–10.
$39.9 million over four years to continue counter-people
smuggling ‘strategic communications campaigns’ in Australia and overseas.
Campaigns of this type have been run for some time; however, they have been
expanded, with concomitant funding increases and a degree of controversy, in
$12.5 million allocated from existing resources to continue
the OSB Disruption and Deterrence Task Group, led by the Australian Federal
Police, for a further two years. Funding to the end of 2015–16 was included in
the 2013–14 MYEFO.
$4.7 million in 2015–16 only to retain ABF (currently
Customs) postings in Indonesia, Malaysia and Sri Lanka to coordinate activities
aimed at preventing maritime people smuggling. This measure has been extended at
one or two year intervals since 2009–10.
$1.3 million in 2015–16 only to continue activities through
the Bali Process Regional Support Office. The Office was established in 2012 to
support implementation of the Regional Cooperation Framework to reduce
irregular migration in the Asia Pacific region.
S Morrison (Minister for Immigration and Border Protection), A
new force protecting Australia’s borders: address to the Lowy Institute for
International Policy, Sydney (A new force),
media release, 9 May 2014.
Parliament of Australia, ‘Australian
Border Force Bill 2015 homepage’, Australian Parliament website. For details,
see C Barker, Australian
Border Force Bill 2015 and Customs and Other Legislation Amendment (Australian
Border Force) Bill 2015, Bills digest, 94, 2014–15, Parliamentary
Library, Canberra, 7 May 2015. The Bill had not received Royal Assent
at the time of writing.
C Barker, ‘Australian
Border Force’, Budget review 2014–15, Research paper series,
2013–14, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 2014.
Ibid.; A new force, op. cit.
The budget figures in this article have been taken from the following
document unless otherwise sourced: Australian Government, Budget
measures: budget paper no. 2: 2015–16, 2015.
Ibid., p. 125; Australian Government, Portfolio
budget statements 2015–16: budget related paper no. 1.11: Immigration and
Border Protection Portfolio, pp. 23, 26.
The Immigration and Border Protection portfolio was allocated
$154.7 million under the 2014–15 MYEFO measure ‘Additional
counter-terrorism funding’, some of which was for the eGate rollout (the exact
amount does not seem to have been made public). J Hockey (Treasurer) and M
Cormann (Minister for Finance), Mid-year
economic and fiscal outlook 2014–15 (MYEFO 2014–15),
pp. 135–36; S Morrison (Minister for Immigration and Border
measures at our borders to protect against terrorist threat, media
release, 10 September 2014.
P Dutton (Minister for Immigration and Border Control), Benefits
for consumers, travellers and industry from red tape cuts and new technology,
media release, 12 May 2015.
Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (Customs), Blueprint
for reform: 2013–18, Customs, Canberra, June 2013, pp. 36–37.
Parliament of Australia, ‘Customs
and Other Legislation Amendment (Australian Border Force) Bill 2015 homepage’,
Australian Parliament website. The Bill has been passed by both Houses of
Parliament but had not received Royal Assent at the time of writing.
Australian Government, Budget
measures: budget paper no. 2: 2013–14, 2013, p. 10; Import Processing
Charges Amendment Act 2013.
Department of Defence (Defence), ‘Global
operations: border protection’, Defence website; C Barker, ‘Counter-people
smuggling measures’, Budget review 2014–15, Research paper series,
2013–14, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 2014.
MYEFO 2014–15, p. 177.
‘Counter-people smuggling measures’, op. cit.
Ibid.; MYEFO 2014–15, p. 174; H Spinks,
C Barker and D Watt, Australian
Government spending on irregular maritime arrivals and counter-people smuggling
activity, Research paper series, 2013–14, Parliamentary Library,
Canberra, updated 4 September 2013, p. 23; S Whyte, ‘Australia’s
$20m “keep out” sign’, The Age, 3 May 2014, p. 14;
T Swann, ‘Rudd’s
irregular ad spend on people smugglers’, The Saturday Paper (online
edition), 7 June 2014.
J Hockey (Treasurer) and M Cormann (Minister for Finance), Mid-year
economic and fiscal outlook 2013–14, p. 120.
H Spinks, C Barker and D Watt, op. cit.;
‘Counter-people smuggling measures’, op. cit.
Regional Support Office, ‘Regional
support office: information’, Information sheet, Bali Process website. For
information on the Framework, see ‘Regional
Cooperation Framework’, Bali Process website.
All online articles accessed May 2015.
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