Policing, security and intelligence—key issues

Budget Review 2012–13 Index

Cat Barker

In a Budget where the Government is determined to achieve a surplus, there is little new funding for police, security and intelligence measures.  Most measures announced in Budget are either being funded from within existing resources or are expected to pay for themselves through anticipated revenue.

Key expense measures

Community safety and justice in the Northern Territory (NT)

This year’s Budget provides a total of $619.3 million in expenditure over ten years for a range of measures including the continued employment of 60 NT police officers across 18 remote communities, continuation of night patrols and construction of a further four permanent remote area police complexes.[1]  The funding is provided across the Attorney-General’s, Treasury and Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs portfolios.

Pacific Police Development Program

This Program first received funding in the 2008–09 Budget, with funding of $80.1 million over four years for the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the Attorney-General’s Department (AGD) to undertake capacity building in Samoa, Nauru and Papua New Guinea and the continuation of the Pacific Regional Policing Initiative, which commenced in 2003.[2]  A further $5.8 million was provided in the 2010–11 Budget to expand the Program to Tonga and Vanuatu.[3]  This year’s Budget continues funding for the Program by providing $97.1 million over four years, the bulk of which will be offset from the provision for expanded aid funding held in the Contingency Reserve, with the remainder sourced from within the existing resources of AusAID and AGD.[4]

Customs vessels

The Government has announced $33.3 million for the operations costs of two new vessels for the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (Customs).[5]

A 6500 tonne Offshore Support Vessel will be used to protect Australia’s interests in the Southern Ocean, including against threats such as illegal fishing.  The $123.0 million cost of acquiring the vessel will be met through existing resources within the Department of Defence.  The Government will provide $13.5 million to Customs for the operating costs of the shared use of the vessel for two years from 2014–15, with the vessel to be transferred to Customs in 2016 when the lease on the Ocean Protector expires.

The second vessel will be used for surveillance and enforcement in the vicinity of Ashmore Reef to ‘manage suspected illegal entry vessels, protect fragile fisheries and respond to safety at sea and pollution incidents’.[6]  The vessel will replace the Ashmore Guardian funded in the 2007–08 Budget, which in turn replaced a vessel on permanent station since 2000.[7]  Budget Measures: Budget Paper No. 2: 2012–13 includes operating costs of $19.8 million but states that ‘the capital costs for this measure have not been published because they are subject to commercial negotiation’.[8]

Increased use of SmartGates

Capital funding of $7.9 million over two years will be used to purchase an additional 20 self-processing kiosks (SmartGates) for passport control at Australia’s major international airports.[9]  They have been progressively rolled out across Australia since 2007.[10] This is expected to generate net savings of $11.9 million over four years due to efficiencies achieved through the increased use of the SmartGates and streamlining of security measures at Sydney Airport.

Expansion of the National Document Verification Service (DVS)

While only Commonwealth agencies have been using the DVS to date, the private sector, including the telecommunications and financial services sectors, will now have access.[11]  The Government will spend $7.5 million over three years to roll the DVS out to those sectors as well as the aviation and maritime security industries.  The introduction of a transaction fee is expected to generate revenue of $6.9 million over the three years.

New forensic facility

The Government has announced the construction and fit-out of a new forensic science and technical intelligence facility for the AFP to replace the existing centre, which the Minister for Home Affairs says is outdated.[12]  Funding for the facility will come from within the AFP’s existing Departmental Capital Budget, though the cost has not been revealed as it is subject to commercial negotiations.[13]  The only funding that appears against the measure in the 2012–13 Budget is a transfer of $200 000 from the AFP to the Department of Finance and Deregulation for the Gateway review process, which is intended to provide quality assurance of major capital projects.  This funding appears to have been rolled over from 2011–12.[14]

Savings, efficiencies and revenue measures

As is the case across the Budget, a range of savings and efficiencies have been identified, including:

  • $81.6 million over four years from redirecting funding from across the Australian Intelligence Community (AIC), including deferring planned growth in staffing for the Australian Secret Intelligence Organisation, to support other national intelligence priorities
  • $58.3 million over four years through the deferral of payments from the Confiscated Assets Account made under section 298 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 and managed by AGD – payments from this account were also deferred in the last Budget to achieve savings of $32.0 million over four years
  • $25.9 million over three years through the deferral by one year of the recruitment target of 500 additional sworn AFP officers (initially announced in the 2008–09 Budget to fulfil an election commitment).

The police and security sector is also projected to generate revenue of $728.1 million over four years.  This will be achieved by partially recovering the costs from operators of the AFP’s community policing role at major international airports from 1 July 2013 (which will generate $118.1 million), and increasing the Passenger Movement Charge (PMC, which replaced departure tax) by eight dollars to $55 per passenger from 1 July 2012 and indexing the charge to annual movements in the CPI thereafter (estimated to generate $610.0 million).  The increase to the PMC has been criticised by the tourism sector, with Qantas claiming it will hurt international and domestic travel and the Tourism and Transport Forum and Australian Airports Association both expressing frustration at not having been consulted in advance.[15]

[1].       J Macklin (Minister for Families, Communities and Indigenous Affairs), N Roxon (Attorney-General), W Snowdon (Minister for Indigenous Health) and T Crossin (Senator for the Northern Territory), Improving safety in Northern Territory Aboriginal communities, media release, 28 March 2012, viewed 10 May 2012. The figure included in the media release is $619 million.  The budget figures have been taken from the following document unless otherwise sourced: Australian Government, Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2012–13, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2012, pp. 10–11, 81–90, 101 and 149, viewed 9 May 2012.

[2].       Australian Government, Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2008–09, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2008, p. 196, viewed 10 May 2012; AusAID, ‘Women in Blue’, AusAID website, viewed 10 May 2012.

[3].       Australian Government, Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2010–11, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2010, p. 109, viewed 10 May 2012.

[4].       Australian Government, Budget strategy and outlook: budget paper no. 1: 2012–13, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2012, p. 6:12, viewed 10 May 2012, states that the Contingency Reserve ‘represents the difference between the amount of overseas ODA already committed by Australia and the Government’s target levels of ODA’.

[5].       N Roxon (Attorney-General) and J Clare (Minister for Home Affairs and Justice), New customs and border protection vessels, media release, 8 May 2012, viewed 9 May 2012.

[6].       Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2012–13, op.cit., p. 82.

[7].       Ibid., p. 81; Australian Government, 2007-08 budget paper No. 2: Budget measures 2007-08, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2008, p. 77, viewed 9 May 2012.

[8].       Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2012–13, op. cit., pp. 81–82.  See also the separate brief ‘Responding to unauthorised arrivals’ in the Immigration section of the Budget Review 2012-13.

[9].       J Clare (Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Justice), Modern technology to get Australian travellers through Customs easier, media release, 5 May 2012, viewed 9 May 2012.

[10].      M Sharma, ‘SmartGate passport check goes national’, The Australian, 8 April 2008, viewed 9 May 2012.

[11].      N Roxon (Attorney-General), Keeping your identity safe, media release, 8 May 2012, viewed 9 May 2012.

[12].      N Roxon (Attorney-General) and J Clare (Minister for Home Affairs and Justice), New forensic facility to provide the Australian Federal Police with better criminal intelligence, media release, 8 May 2012, viewed 9 May 2012.

[13].      Ibid.

[14].      See Australian Government, Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2011–12, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2011, p. 104, viewed 10 May 2012.

[15].      L Allen, ‘Shocked operators bag passenger charge hike’, The Australian, p. 25, viewed 10 May 2012; N Wilson, ‘Warning of flight price take-off’, Herald Sun, p. 50, viewed 10 May 2012.

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