The 2017–18 Budget contains several new expense measures
relating to national security. This includes new funding for the Australian
Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) and the Australian Secret
Intelligence Service (ASIS), for which the amounts have not been disclosed.
ASIO and ASIS funding
The Review of Australia’s Counter-Terrorism Machinery (in
2015) and the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (in
February 2017) both recommended that the efficiency dividend (ED) be
removed from the operations of ASIO and ASIS (and the Australian Federal
Police). The operations of these
agencies account for a significant portion of their expenditure (for ASIO,
around 80 per cent). It stands to reason that
the continued application of the ED over many years will eventually affect core
The Government has not amended how the ED applies to the
intelligence agencies, but has allocated additional funding over four years for
ASIO and ASIS to support their operations and ‘strengthen [their] capacity to
meet the strategic priorities and objectives of the [agencies] and the
Government’. In both cases the amounts
are listed as ‘not for publication’ (nfp) on the grounds of national security.
It is not unusual for the specific activities or capabilities for which funding
has been provided to the intelligence agencies, particularly ASIS, not to be
detailed publicly. In fact, it is standard practice, and broadly accepted. Nor
is it unusual for amounts included in the budget papers to be marked ‘nfp’ for
reasons of commercial confidentiality, or current or anticipated legal action.
What is unusual is for the Government to suppress the amount of additional funding
being provided to ASIO or ASIS on the basis of national security.
The funding provided to these agencies in the 2002–03 and
2004–05 Budgets, which focused heavily on national security, was published in
the budget papers. Similarly, the 2015–16
Budget outlined $295.8 million in new funding for ASIS.
It is not clear how revealing the additional amount to be provided from 2017–18,
without detailing how it is to be used, would, on its own, compromise national
While the amount (which for ASIS includes capital funding) was
not disclosed in the budget papers, The Australian reported the day
before the budget was released that ASIS would receive an additional $75 million
and ASIO a similar amount to restore resources eroded by the continued
application of the efficiency dividend. The article also indicated that at
least part of the funding was to be ‘diverted’ from foreign aid.
The same outlet reported that the additional funding for ASIS will go towards
bolstering operations in Southeast Asia, from where resources had previously
been diverted to deal with threats in the Middle East.
Refocusing resources towards Southeast Asia would be consistent with concerns
voiced publicly by Australian Government ministers and the intelligence
agencies about increasing terrorism risks in the region, most notably in and
around the southern Philippines.
The Government has allocated $26.7 million over five
years (from 2016–17), including $2.0 million in capital funding, for
measures to manage and advise on national security risks to critical
infrastructure. Funded initiatives include the Critical Infrastructure Centre
established in the Attorney-General’s Department to ‘develop coordinated,
whole-of-government national security risk assessments and advice to support
government decision-making on investment transactions’, with an initial focus
on the most critical assets across the electricity, water and ports sectors.
The measure will be offset by an increase in application fees (from $5,000 to
$5,500) for foreign purchases of Australian residential properties valued at
less than $10.0 million, to take effect from 1 July 2017.
The Digital Transformation Agency will receive
$10.7 million to establish a Cyber Security Advisory Office. This would
implement a recommendation by the Review of the Events Surrounding the 2016
eCensus to establish a digital security consulting organisation within the
DTA to ‘ensure security is integral to all new online service delivery
proposals and facilitate partnering between agencies to draw on cyber security
expertise in larger agencies with more mature capabilities’.
While the report examined issues specific to the eCensus, it considered that
the Australian Bureau of Statistics was ‘likely not alone’ in struggling to
keep up with an evolving cyberthreat environment, and recommended better
pooling of resources to help smaller agencies build cybersecurity into services,
from design through to implementation.
The Government will provide an additional $7.2 million
to the Australia-New Zealand Counter-Terrorism Committee (ANZCTC) over four
years, increasing the estimated funding from the Australian Government over
that period to $55.1 million. The ANZCTC comprises
representatives from all Australian governments and the New Zealand Government,
and its responsibilities include maintaining the National Counter-Terrorism
Plan, providing advice to relevant ministers, and facilitating effective
nationwide counterterrorism capability and arrangements for sharing of
information and intelligence. The new funding is
intended to ensure the national counterterrorism framework keeps pace with
The Budget also includes an additional $2.3 million for
payments under the Australian Victims of Terrorism Overseas Payment (AVTOP) scheme.
The AVTOP was established in 2012, and provides a one-off payment to eligible
Australians affected by acts of terrorism overseas that are declared as such by
the Prime Minister. Following a review of
past incidents, many of which predated the AVTOP, 20 incidents that occurred
between September 2001 and March 2015 were declared by the Prime Minister
in April 2017. The additional funding is
for payments relating to those earlier incidents, as well as those in Berlin in
December 2016 and London in March 2017.
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Review
of Australia’s counter-terrorism machinery, Australian Government,
Canberra, January 2015, pp. 36–42; Parliamentary Joint Committee on
Intelligence and Security (PJCIS), Review
of administration and expenditure no. 14 (2014–15), Parliament of
Australia, Canberra, February 2017, pp. 59–68.
Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), Supplementary
submission to PJCIS, Review of administration and expenditure
no. 14 (2014–15), n.d., pp. 10–11; PJCIS), Review of
administration and expenditure no. 14 (2014–15), op. cit.
Australian Government, Budget
measures: budget paper no. 2: 2017–18, 2017, pp. 69, 103. The
budget figures in this brief have also been taken from that document unless
Australian Government, Budget measures:
budget paper no. 2: 2002–03, 2002, p. 66; Australian Government, Budget
measures: budget paper no. 2: 2004–05, 2004, p. 93.
Australian Government, Budget
measures: budget paper no. 2: 2015–16, 2016, p. 98.
S Benson, ‘Spy
funds boosted in terror fight’, The Australian, 8 May 2017,
P Maley, ‘Budget
2017: ISIS threat sparks funding boost’, The Australian, 10 May 2017,
G Brandis (Attorney-General), The
caliphate beyond 2016: the view from Southeast Asia, speech,
9 December 2016; J Bishop (Minister for Foreign Affairs), Statement
to the Global Coalition Summit, speech, 22 March 2017; C
State affiliates “in Australia’s backyard”, ASIS spy chief Nick Warner says’,
The World Today, Australian Broadcasting Corporation,
26 September 2016; ASIO, Annual
report 2015–16, ASIO, 2016, p. 21.
G Brandis (Attorney-General) and S Morrison (Treasurer), Keeping
Australia’s critical infrastructure secure, media release,
23 January 2017.
Australian Government, Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2017–18,
op. cit, p. 67; Australian Government, ‘Fees – residential land
[GN29]’, Foreign Investment Review Board website.
Australian Government, Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2017–18,
op. cit, p. 139; A MacGibbon, Review
of the events surrounding the 2016 eCensus, Department of the Prime
Minister and Cabinet, 13 October 2016, pp. 85–86.
MacGibbon, Review of the events surrounding the 2016 eCensus,
op. cit., pp. 7–8, 85–86.
Australian Government, Portfolio
budget statements 2017–18: budget related paper no. 1.2:
Attorney-General’s Portfolio, 2017, p. 21.
Australian Government, ‘Australia-New
Zealand Counter-Terrorism Committee’, Australian National Security website.
Security Amendment (Supporting Australian Victims of Terrorism Overseas) Act
2012; Department of Human Services (DHS), ‘Australian
Victim of Terrorism Overseas Payment’, DHS website.
G Brandis (Attorney-General) and A Tudge (Minister for Human Services), Assistance
to victims of past overseas terrorist attacks, media release,
20 April 2017.
All online articles accessed May 2017.
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