Law enforcement and crime prevention

Budget Review 2016–17 Index

Cat Barker

Australian Federal Police

The Australian Federal Police’s (AFP) budget for federal policing is projected to (continue to[1]) decrease over the forward estimates and the average staffing level to fall from 5,507 in 2015–16 to 5,318 in 2016–17.[2] In January 2015, the Review of Australia’s Counter-Terrorism Machinery recommended the efficiency dividend be removed from AFP operations from 2015–16.[3] The Government has not taken up that recommendation. The AFP has been blunt about the impacts of the efficiency dividend, stating: ‘If it continues indefinitely, it will reduce the AFP’s capacity to respond flexibly to Government priorities, and erode the AFP’s core operational resources’.[4] It has also indicated the dividend cannot be met from non-staff costs alone, and that the resulting deferral of upgrades to IT systems increases the challenges already faced by the agency in keeping up with ‘advanced criminal enterprises’ that invest heavily in technology to evade detection.[5]

The Budget includes some additional funding for specific measures, many of which have already been announced throughout April 2016. However, several measures are to be fully or partially funded from existing resources.

The largest component is $148.5 million over five years for additional Protective Security Officers, additional physical and personnel security and a ‘scoping study for enhanced protective technical capabilities’.[6] The funding includes $52.2 million in capital funding and $28.6 million drawn from existing agency resources. This follows the raising of the national terrorism threat level for all Australian police from medium to high in January 2015 (which took account of the stabbing of two police officers in Melbourne in September 2014 as well as recent overseas experience) and the murder of a police accountant in Sydney in October 2015.[7]

Other measures include:

  • $14.7 million over three years from the Confiscated Assets Account (CAA) to support the AFP Fraud and Corruption Centre’s 18 ongoing foreign bribery investigations and to fund three foreign bribery investigative teams[8]
  • $3.3 million over two years from the CAA to establish a National Anti-Gang Squad strike team in South Australia (adding to those already established in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia)[9]
  • $20.4 million over four years to increase the AFP’s capability to combat cybercrime, as part of a broader package to implement the revised Cyber Security Strategy released in April 2016.[10]

Some $32.6 million in existing agency resources will be used to fund the second phase of the AFP’s new data strategy, specifically to complete transition of its data centre activities to meet the requirements of the Government’s Data Centre Policy. This follows the $17.6 million of existing resources allocated for the first phase in the 2015–16 Budget.[11] A further amount of $15.4 million in existing agency resources will be used to fund the first phase of the AFP’s Unified Operational Communications system, which will replace its current radio capabilities.

The AFP received $8.4 million over four years from the CAA in the 2015–16 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) towards upgraded surveillance equipment.[12]

Australian Crime Commission

The Australian Crime Commission’s (ACC) funding is projected to continue to decrease over the forward estimates, though its average staffing level is expected to increase in 2016–17, partly due to the transfer of Australian Institute of Criminology staff.[13]

Like the AFP, the ACC will receive additional funding for upgraded physical and personnel security ($5.1 million over five years) and to increase its cybercrime capabilities ($16 million over four years). The ACC also received $18.1 million over four years in the 2015–16 MYEFO from the CAA to deliver the National Criminal Intelligence System ($9.8 million), strengthen anti-money laundering capabilities ($3.4 million) and undertake international secondments ($4.9 million).[14]

Australian Border Force

The Government will continue to increase tobacco excise from 2016–2017 to 2019–2020.[15] There are no official figures on the size of the illicit tobacco market in Australia, and different estimates vary significantly.[16] However, the former and current governments have taken measures to combat illicit tobacco smuggling in recognition of the potential for excise increases to lead to the illicit trade becoming more attractive and profitable.[17]

The Tobacco Strike Team was established in October 2015 to gather intelligence on groups involved in smuggling tobacco to Australia, work with domestic and overseas law enforcement agencies and to prevent and disrupt smuggling, with a particular focus on targeting organised criminal involvement.[18] No new funding was provided for the establishment of the Strike Team. The Budget includes funding of $7.7 million over two years to expand the Strike Team.


CrimTrac’s funding is projected to increase slightly overall over the forward estimates, with staffing remaining stable.[19] Amounts from CrimTrac’s Special Account, its principal funding source, have been allocated in the Budget to a Biometrics Identification Service (BIS) to replace the National Automated Fingerprint Identification System ($28.9 million over three years) and update CrimTrac’s network infrastructure ($6.8 million over two years). The remainder of the $52 million cost of the BIS ($23.1 million) will come from the agency’s existing resources.

In the 2015–16 MYEFO, $5.3 million over two years was allocated from the Special Account to deliver the National Firearms Interface, which will provide a single database of all legal firearms in Australia.[20]

Victoria Police contribution to Task Force Trident

Victoria Police will receive $4 million over two years (from 2015–16) from the Confiscated Assets Account for phase two of Task Force Trident. This is one of three multi-agency taskforces comprising AFP, ACC, Australian Border Force, Australian Taxation Office and AUSTRAC officers, and officers from relevant state police and crime commissions in New South Wales (Polaris), Victoria and Queensland (Jericho) that were established to combat serious and organised crime in the maritime sector.[21]

[1].          D Connery, ‘Organised crime exacts too high a price to ignore’, Canberra Times, 22 April 2016, p. 5; J Taylor, ‘AFP can’t spy, fight terrorism if govt keeps cutting its budget’, Crikey, 30 September 2015.

[2].          Australian Government, Portfolio budget statements 2016–17: budget-related paper no. 1.2: Attorney-General’s Portfolio, p. 96. This statement concerns Outcome 1 (federal policing) only. Outcome 2 concerns ACT Policing.

[3].          Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Review of Australia’s counter-terrorism machinery, Australian Government, Canberra, January 2015, pp. 36–42.

[4].          Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, Answers to Questions on Notice, Attorney-General’s Portfolio, Budget Estimates 2015–16, Question BE15-094.

[5].          Ibid.

[6].          The budget figures in this brief have been taken from the following document unless otherwise sourced: Australian Government, Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2016–17, 2016 (quote from p. 68).

[7].          ‘Terror threat for all police in Australia raised to high, in line with national alert level’, ABC News (online), 20 January 2015; C Barker, J Mills and J Murphy, Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2015, Bills digest, 80, 2015–16, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 2016, p. 5.

[8].          Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2016–17, op. cit., p. 66; M Turnbull (Prime Minister), G Brandis (Attorney-General) and M Keenan (Minister for Justice), Boosting efforts to tackle foreign bribery, media release, 23 April 2016.

[9].          Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2016–17, op. cit., p. 66; M Keenan (Minister for Justice) and P Malinauskas (SA Minister for Police), Dedicated strike team to target organised gangs in South Australia, media release, 15 April 2016.

[10].       See further N Brangwin, ‘Cybersecurity’, Budget review 2016–17, Research paper series, 2015–16, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 2016.

[11].       Australian Government, Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2015–16, 2015, p. 193.

[12].       S Morrison (Treasurer) and M Cormann (Minister for Finance), Mid-year economic and fiscal outlook 2015–16, p. 148.

[13].       Portfolio budget statements 2016–17: budget-related paper no. 1.2: Attorney-General’s Portfolio, op. cit., pp. 79, 143.

[14].       Mid-year economic and fiscal outlook 2015–16, op. cit.

[15].       See M Thomas, ‘Tobacco excise’, Budget review 2016–17, Research paper series, 2015–16, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 2016.

[16].       C Barker, L Ferris and M Thomas, Customs Amendment (Smuggled Tobacco) Bill 2012, Bills digest, 28, 2012–13, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 2012, pp. 8–9; Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP), Submission to Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement, Inquiry into illicit tobacco, n.d., p. 3.

[17].       Barker et al., Customs Amendment (Smuggled Tobacco) Bill 2012, op. cit.; DIBP, Submission, op. cit., p. 6.

[18].       DIBP, Submission, op. cit., p. 6; P Dutton (Minister for Immigration and Border Protection), Record illicit tobacco seizure leads to new strike team, media release, 16 October 2015.

[19].       Portfolio budget statements 2016–17: budget-related paper no. 1.2: Attorney-General’s Portfolio, op. cit., p. 198.

[20].       Mid-year economic and fiscal outlook 2015–16, op. cit., p. 149.

[21].       Australian Crime Commission (ACC), ‘Waterfront task forces’, ACC website.


All online articles accessed May 2016. 

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