Law enforcement overview

Budget Review 2017–18 Index

Cat Barker

Australian Federal Police

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) will receive new funding from three key measures in the 2017–18 Budget. Despite this, the AFP’s total resourcing is estimated to be slightly lower in 2017–18 than it was in 2016–17 (by $8.3 million, or around 0.5 per cent).[1] Further, as illustrated in Table 1, while the AFP’s budgeted expenses for federal policing over the forward estimates are higher than they were in the 2016–17 Budget (by a total of $457.4 million over 2016–17 to 2019–20), they are still projected to decline over time, reflecting the continued application of the efficiency dividend.[2]

Table 1: Budgeted expenses for Outcome 1 (federal policing) in the 2016–17 and 2017–18 Budgets

(all figures in $’000) 2015–16



Outcome 1
(federal policing)
2016–17 Budget 1 257 381* 1 214 943 1 091 204 1 084 620 1 071 690
2017–18 Budget 1 255 460* 1 239 647 1 227 308 1 197 449 1 173 069
Change: 2016–17 to 2017–18 N/A +40 517 +148 443 +142 688 +125 759 N/A

*Estimated actual from the portfolio budget statement for the following year.[3]

Efficiency dividend continues to apply

In January 2015, the Review of Australia’s Counter-Terrorism Machinery (the Review) recommended the efficiency dividend (ED) be removed from AFP operations.[4] The Review outlined the pressure that the ED placed on national security agencies and the risks associated with continued reductions to base funding. It also noted that the Department of Defence receives an 89 per cent exemption from the ED, and stated that the activities of national security agencies ‘are just as operational as those of Defence’.[5]

In a report tabled in March 2017, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security also recommended the removal of the ED from all AFP operations (and those of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and the Australian Secret Intelligence Service).[6] The Government has not adopted the recommendation.

When the Government announced the funding for high-priority operations (detailed below), the Prime Minister was asked why the Government continued to provide ‘seemingly one-off funding boosts’ to the AFP and other national security agencies instead of removing the ED, but his response did not address the issue.[7] The ABC quoted the Minister for Justice as stating that ‘no agency is exempt’ from the ED, but that the additional AFP funding in the 2017–18 and previous budgets ‘more than makes up for that’.[8]

High-priority operations

The Government will provide $321.4 million over four years (including capital funding of $44.1 million) to increase resources and capabilities in support of high-priority operations, including those relating to terrorism, organised crime, violent criminal gangs, cybercrime and serious financial crime.[9] The amount will fund around 300 additional staff to support specialist response capabilities (such as police negotiators and tactical response officers), covert physical and technical capabilities, and forensics and intelligence capabilities (including digital forensics and biometric experts).[10]

By funding the AFP for specific measures instead of removing the ED, the Government can exert greater control over how the agency’s resources are deployed. That said, unlike much of the additional funding the Government has given the AFP across the 2014–15 to 2016–17 financial years, which has been focused on countering terrorism, this measure is directed towards building expertise relevant to a broader range of criminal activity.

The Government stated that this measure is the first step in the AFP’s ten-year plan.[11] This appears to be a reference to the AFP’s Strategy for Future Capability, dated March 2017.[12] The Strategy represents the next step in the AFP’s Future Directions project, which commenced in March 2015, and follows on from the AFP’s move to a new structure focused on achieving better alignment between capabilities and operational needs from July 2015.[13] A key theme of the Strategy is the need for the AFP to position itself such that it can respond more flexibly to a complex and dynamic operating environment, including through building up specialist capabilities and making more effective use of technology.

Assistance to Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea police forces

The other key measures both relate to assistance to overseas police forces. The Australia-led Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI), which began in 2003 and transitioned to a police-only mission from July 2013, will conclude on 30 June 2017.[14] The Government will provide $79.0 million over four years (including capital funding of $1.4 million) to establish the Solomon Islands Police Development Program. Most of the cost will be offset from Official Development Assistance resources ($74.8 million).[15]

The Government will also provide $58.9 million over two years for the AFP to provide assistance to the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary in the lead-up to APEC meetings to be hosted in PNG in 2018.[16] The amount will fund 73 AFP personnel already in PNG to remain there until December 2018, with 56 personnel to have dedicated advisory roles relating to planning for the APEC forum.[17] The cost will be partially offset by the Official Development Assistance (ODA) fund and the AFP’s existing resources.

Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission

The only additional funding committed to the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) in the 2017–18 Budget is an undisclosed amount for support relating to the 2018 Commonwealth Games.[18] Aside from that amount, ACIC’s resourcing is estimated to be lower in 2017–18 than it was in 2016–17, by $15.3 million, or around 4.3 per cent. ACIC’s budgeted expenses are also projected to decline over the forward estimates, and by more than was estimated in the 2016–17 Budget for the agencies now comprising the ACIC (the Australian Crime Commission and CrimTrac). The difference adds up to $20.7 million over 2016–17 to 2019–20. The decline is likely due to the impact of the ED rather than savings associated with the merging of the two agencies.[19]

[1].          The budget figures in this brief have been taken from the following document unless otherwise sourced: Australian Government, Portfolio budget statements 2017–18: budget related paper no. 1.2: Attorney-General’s Portfolio, 2017.

[2].          This statement concerns Outcome 1 (federal policing) only. Outcome 2 concerns ACT Policing.

[3].          2016–17 Budget figures taken from Australian Government, Portfolio budget statements 2016–17: budget related paper no. 1.2: Attorney-General’s Portfolio, 2016, p. 96.

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

[5].          Ibid (quote taken from p. 40).

[6].          Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, Review of administration and expenditure No. 14 (2014–15), Parliament of Australia, Canberra, February 2017, pp. 59–68.

[7].          M Turnbull (Prime Minister), Transcript of joint doorstop interview: Australian Federal Police Majura Forensics Complex, media release, 8 May 2017.

[8].          S Borys, ‘Federal budget 2017: AFP to get $321m funding boost to hire extra personnel’, AM, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 8 May 2017.

[9].          Australian Government, Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2017–18, 2017, p. 68.

[10].       M Turnbull (Prime Minister), G Brandis (Attorney-General) and M Keenan (Minister for Justice), Boosting national security: $321 million investment in the AFP, media release, 8 May 2017.

[11].       Ibid.

[12].       Australian Federal Police (AFP), Policing for a safer Australia: strategy for future capability, AFP, March 2017.

[13].       Ibid., p. 37; AFP, Annual report 2015–16, AFP, 2016, p. 10.

[14].       Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI), ‘About RAMSI’, RAMSI website; C Fierravanti-Wells, ‘Answer to Question without notice: Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands’, [Questioner: D Fawcett], Senate, Debates, 7 November 2016.

[15].       Australian Government, Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2017–18, op. cit., p. 70.

[16].       Ibid., p. 64.

[17].       M Keenan (Minister for Justice), Extending Australia's policing partnership with Papua New Guinea, media release, 31 January 2017.

[18].       Australian Government, Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2017–18, op. cit., pp. 106–107.

[19].       When the merger was announced, the Minister for Justice reportedly stated that it was ‘not about cutting the costs or the personnel of either agency’: P Riordan, ‘Australian Crime Commission to expand into a national crime intelligence agency’, Australian Financial Review (online edition), 5 November 2015. See also Explanatory Memorandum, Australian Crime Commission Amendment (National Policing Information) Bill 2015, p. 3.


All online articles accessed May 2017. 

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