Organised crime and crime prevention

Budget Review 2013–14 Index

Cat Barker

New funding of $149.9 million has been allocated in the 2013–14 Budget under the banner of addressing gang violence and organised crime, all for measures announced in advance:

  • $9.1 million will go to CrimTrac for a national rollout of the Australian Ballistics Identification Network, based on the Integrated Ballistics Identification System used by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and New South Wales Police, for analysis of seized firearms
  • $64.0 million will go to the AFP to establish a National Anti-Gang Taskforce and an Australian Gang Intelligence Centre, and supplement the Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce
  • $30.2 million will go to the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (Customs) to establish a National Border Targeting Centre, based on models used in the United Kingdom and United States, to better deal with high risk international passengers and cargo
  • $5.6 million from the Confiscated Assets Account (CAA) will be provided to the Queensland and Victorian police forces to assist with their participation in multi-agency taskforces in Brisbane and Melbourne established to target serious and organised crime on the waterfront and
  • $40.9 million will go to the Attorney-General’s Department (AGD) for the National Crime Prevention Fund.[1]

National Anti-Gang Taskforce and Australian Gang Intelligence Centre

The National Anti-Gang Taskforce will comprise 70 members of the AFP and state police, plus officers from the Australian Crime Commission (ACC), Customs, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, the Australian Tax Office and Centrelink.[2] As no additional funding has been provided to these other Commonwealth agencies, it appears they will be expected to absorb the costs of involvement within their existing resources. Given the ACC’s role as the national criminal intelligence agency and its mandate in relation to serious and organised crime, it would be reasonable to expect that the agency might have a more prominent role in these measures, particularly in the planned intelligence centre, than appears to be the case. In fact, while the ACC’s funding will remain relatively stable from 2012–13 to 2013–14 (down slightly from $1.05 to $1.02 billion), its average staffing level is projected to drop from 558 to 504, a reduction of 9.7 per cent.[3]

The Australian Government has been trying for some time to convince states and territories to refer Constitutional powers to the Commonwealth so that it can enact national anti-gang laws and improve national unexplained wealth laws.[4] The issue was elevated to the Council of Australian Governments in April 2013, only to be referred back to the Standing Council on Law and Justice, where the proposal had previously failed.[5] Some commentators have suggested that the Taskforce will not be effective without national anti-gang laws, which have helped to make the (US) Federal Bureau of Investigation model on which it is based, so successful.[6] The Minister has insisted the Taskforce would still work, but admitted ‘it’ll be a lot more effective if we get national anti-gang laws’.[7]

National Border Targeting Centre

The National Border Targeting Centre will be established in two stages, the first involving expanded information and joint targeting efforts, the second involving a move to a dedicated facility where agencies will plan joint operations, share intelligence and undertake investigations.[8] Of the $30.2 million provided in the Budget, $20.5 million is capital funding to upgrade facilities and information technology equipment.

According to the Australian Government, 85 per cent of border seizures of drugs and other contraband are the result of intelligence from Customs and other Australian and overseas law enforcement agencies. [9] Given the rising number of passengers and cargo consignments coming through Australia’s air and sea ports, intelligence will play an increasingly important role in supporting a risk-based approach to combating risks at the border.[10]

National Crime Prevention Fund

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 (held in the CAA) to fund crime prevention and law enforcement measures, measures relating to drug addiction treatment and diversionary measures relating to illicit drug use.[11] While the Australian Government has continued to draw on the CAA to make a series of small grants, it deferred payments of $32 million in the 2011–12 Budget and $58.3 million in the 2012–13 Budget so funds could be diverted to other priorities.[12] The 2013–14 Budget will allow an additional $40.9 million to be spent on grants for projects aiming to prevent street crime and gang violence over the four years to 2015–16.

[1].       The budget figures in this brief have been taken from the following document unless otherwise sourced: Australian Government, Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2013–14, pp. 81–97, accessed 15 May 2013.

[2].       Ibid., p. 82.

[3].       Australian Government, Portfolio budget statements 2013–14: budget related paper no. 1.2: Attorney-General’s Portfolio, p. 85, accessed 15 May 2013.

[4].       See for example, M Dreyfus (Attorney-General), Federal Government still waiting for states to cooperate on national anti-gang laws, media release, 4 April 2013, accessed 16 May 2013. The latter was recommended by a Parliamentary committee: Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement, Inquiry into Commonwealth unexplained wealth legislation and arrangements, The Senate, Canberra, 2012, recommendation 15, accessed 16 May 2013.

[5].       Ibid.; Council of Australian Governments, Communique, Canberra, 19 April 2013, accessed 15 May 2013.

[6].       T Priest, ‘National anti-gang taskforce doomed to failure’, The Australian, 5 March 2013, p. 14, accessed 16 May 2013; J Clare (Minister for Home Affairs), ‘Interview with Alexandra Kirk, ABC radio AM, transcript, Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC),6 March 2013, accessed 16 May 2013.

[7].       J Clare, ‘Interview with Alexandra Kirk’, ibid.

[8].       J Gillard (Prime Minister) and J Clare (Minister for Home Affairs), National Border Targeting Centre to target organised crime, media release, 3 March 2013, accessed 15 May 2013.

[9].       Ibid.

[10].     See the backgrounder, ‘Border security’ in the Parliamentary Library’s Budget review 2013–14 for information on trends and projections in relation to international passengers and cargo.

[11].     Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, accessed 15 May 2013.

[12].     Attorney-General’s Department, ‘Overview of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002’, Australian Government crime prevention website, accessed 16 May 2013; Australia, Parliamentary Library, Budget review 2012–13, Research paper, 9, 2011–12, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 2012, accessed 16 May 2013.

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