Law enforcement and security overview

Budget Review 2019–20 Index

Cat Barker

The 2019–20 Budget contains several new expense measures relating to law enforcement, crime prevention and national security.

Additional funding for national security agencies

The most significant expense measure is additional national security funding for the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), the bulk of which will go to the AFP.

The AFP will receive an additional $512.8 million over five years from 2018–19 (including $50.8 million in capital funding) to ‘enhance critical capabilities and operations, including counter-terrorism activities’. Announcing the additional funding ahead of the Budget, the Minister for Home Affairs noted that the agency was ‘conducting seven times more counter terrorism operations and monitoring eight times the number of people of interest’ compared to five years ago. The additional funding is intended to support the management and monitoring of persons of interest, help the agency address the risks posed by returning foreign fighters and terrorist prisoners due for release, enhance its ability to operate offshore to combat the threat of foreign fighters attempting to return to Australia, and fund new and enhanced technology, including anti-drone systems.

ASIO will receive an additional $58.6 million in 2019–20 (including $17.7 million in capital funding, most of which had already been provided for) to ‘sustain current operations and undertake preliminary work to further enhance its future operations’.

Countering foreign interference

In recent years, ASIO has warned of increasing threats from espionage and foreign interference in Australia, stating in January 2018 that the volume and scale of these threats is unprecedented, owing to ‘the exponential rise of cyber as a vector’ and Australia’s increasing interconnectedness with the rest of the world. The National Security Legislation Amendment (Espionage and Foreign Interference) Act 2018 (EFI Act) updated Australian espionage offences and introduced new foreign interference offences intended to capture certain conduct that ‘falls short of espionage but is intended to harm Australia’s national security or influence Australia’s political or governmental processes’. The Budget includes $34.8 million over four years for work by the AFP, ASIO, the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, the Attorney-General’s Department and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to counter foreign interference, including through investigation and prosecution of offences under the EFI Act and establishment of a joint AFP–ASIO Foreign Interference Threat Assessment Centre.

Safer Communities Fund

The Safer Communities Fund was first established in 2016, implementing an election commitment to ‘boost the efforts of identified local councils and community organisations to address crime and anti-social behaviour by funding crime prevention initiatives’; and to protect organisations ‘facing security risks associated with racial or religious intolerance’. Funding of $31.9 million for round four grants was included in the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook 2018–19. The Budget includes additional funding of $23.1 million in 2019–20 for round four grants, announced in the wake of the Christchurch terror attacks, and $35.1 million over four years for round five.

Confiscated Assets Account funding

The Budget allocates $21.6 million over four years from 2018-19 from the Confiscated Assets Account (established under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002) to the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC), the AFP and the Department of Home Affairs ‘to fund crime prevention and law enforcement initiatives’. This follows the provision of $24.8 million from that account in the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook 2018–19 to those agencies and the Australian Institute of Criminology, Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for the same purpose. The Budget papers, however, did not include detail about the distribution of funding across agencies and departments, or the specific initiatives being funded, for either allocation from the Confiscated Assets Account.

Other measures

The Budget also includes:

  • funding for the Home Affairs portfolio as part of a $337.2 million whole-of-government package to support the National Drug Strategy 2017–2026 (establishment of a Commonwealth Illicit Drugs Joint Agency Taskforce was announced in the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook 2018–19, with the cost of the measure to be met from within the existing resources of participating agencies and departments), specifically:
    • $130.8 million for the AFP (including $7.1 million in capital funding)
    • $11.5 million for ACIC (including $4.8 million to continue the National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program) and
    • $9.7 million for the Department of Home Affairs
  • funding to ‘enhance cyber security arrangements for whole-of-government systems’ ahead of the upcoming election and ‘mitigate potential cyber threats through enhanced monitoring and response capabilities’ (Neither the agencies nor the funding amount are disclosed, but the Australian Cyber Security Centre is part of the Australian Signals Directorate and also includes staff from ACIC, the AFP, ASIO and the Defence Intelligence Organisation.)
  • $28.4 million for AUSTRAC to expand the Fintel Alliance, a public-private partnership launched in March 2017 that brings together 19 government and private sector partners, including the major banks, Western Union and Paypal to identify and disrupt money laundering and terrorism financing and
  • $7.8 million for ACIC to establish and host a publicly available National Public Register of Child Sex offenders (the Government announced in January 2019 that it had commenced consultation with state and territory governments on such a register).

Budget position of key agencies

Excluding unfunded depreciation of $84 million, the AFP recorded a deficit of $45 million in 2017–18, due partly to ‘higher operational costs in response to a heightened threat and response level and higher investigative activity’, despite additional funding of $321.4 million over four years in the 2017–18 Budget to support high-priority operations. The AFP’s total resourcing was estimated to decline by around 2.6 per cent year-on-year in the 2018–19 Budget. Additional funding provided in the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook 2018–19 (including under a significant cross-portfolio funding package to increase Australia’s engagement in the Indo-Pacific) and 2018–19 Portfolio Additional Estimate Statements mean that the AFP’s total resourcing is now estimated to have increased by around 3.5 per cent from 2017–18 to 2018–19.

The AFP’s total resourcing is estimated to increase slightly year-on-year to 2019–20 (by $6 million or 0.3 per cent), as is the AFP’s average staffing level (by 312 or 4.8 per cent). In total, budgeted expenses for the federal policing components of the AFP are estimated to increase slightly over the forward estimates (with Federal Policing and National Security increasing, and International Policing Assistance decreasing). However, they will both decline in real terms once forecast changes to the CPI are taken into account (see figures 1 and 2).

Figure 1: budgeted expenses for Federal Policing and National Security, raw and adjusted figures

Budgeted expenses for Federal Policing and National Security, raw and adjusted figures

Source: Australian Government, Portfolio budget statements 2019–20: budget-related paper no. 1.10: Home Affairs portfolio, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2019. CPI adjusted figures are based on the 2019–20 Budget forecasts, expressed in 2018–19 equivalent dollars.

Figure 2: budgeted expenses for International Policing Assistance, raw and adjusted figures

Budgeted expenses for International Policing Assistance, raw and adjusted figures

Source: Australian Government, Portfolio budget statements 2019–20: budget-related paper no. 1.10: Home Affairs portfolio, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2019. CPI adjusted figures are based on the 2019–20 Budget forecasts, expressed in 2018–19 equivalent dollars.

ASIO’s total resourcing was estimated to decline by around 1.4 per cent year-on-year in the 2018–19 Budget; but is now estimated to have remained stable from 2017–18 to 2018–19. Its total resourcing is estimated to increase slightly year-on-year to 2019–20 (by $8.9 million or 1.6 per cent), as is ASIO’s average staffing level (by 107 or 5.8 per cent). As with the AFP, ASIO’s budgeted expenses are estimated to increase slightly over the forward estimates, but to decline in real terms once forecast changes to the CPI are taken into account (see Figure 3).

Figure 3: budgeted expenses for Security Intelligence, raw and adjusted figures

Budgeted expenses for Security Intelligence, raw and adjusted figures

Source: Australian Government, Portfolio budget statements 2019–20: budget-related paper no. 1.10: Home Affairs portfolio, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2019. CPI adjusted figures are based on the 2019–20 Budget forecasts, expressed in 2018–19 equivalent dollars.

 

All online articles accessed April 2019

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