Victoria’s Andrews government has announced an extra $49.4 million for counter-terrorism funding — almost doubling the state’s anti-terror capacity in one fell swoop.
Victoria Police will use the money to hire 88 new counter-terrorism personnel, including 40 sworn officers, as well as intelligence experts and forensic analysts.
The recently established Counter Terrorism Command, which coordinates police response across the state, will begin recruitment and transfers starting tomorrow.
The boost will be used to increase counter-terrorism investigations and prevention work, as well as analysis of information channels, including social media. Victoria Police cooperates with federal authorities through the Joint Counter Terrorism Team with the Australian Federal Police and ASIO.
The Andrews government has funded almost 700 new police personnel positions since it came into office around a year ago.
Victoria Police chief commissioner Graham Ashton (pictured) said police had been “challenged” by the workload presented by increasing numbers of terrorism-related investigations in recent months.
“It continues to grow at an increasing rate,” he explained.
The funding boost is part of a broader trend of pumping money into counter-terrorism and law enforcement that has seen the budgets of Australia’s intelligence organisations more than triple since September 11, 2001 — even as funding across many other areas of the public sector having been shrinking. While ASIO reported 565 staff in 1999, it had 1715 at 30 June this year.
The federal government created a counter-terrorism coordination office within the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, appointing Greg Moriarty Commonwealth counter-terrorism coordinator, as well as the role of Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Counter-Terrorism earlier this year. The Commonwealth government increased counter-terrorism funding by $600 million in the most recent budget alone.
New South Wales announced $5.2 million for extra security in courts in September due to terrorism concerns.
In the past eighteen months Victoria has seen the stabbing of two police officers by a supporter of the Islamic State, as well as the arrest of a teenager suspected of planning an ANZAC day terror attack and an individual charged with terror financing, both of whom are now facing lower-level charges due to lack of evidence.
Victorian Police Minister Wade Noonan said his government was responding to police requests for increased funding.
“Police have told us what they need to deal with the demands they are facing,” he stated.
“We have listened to them and will continue to do so. Police will use the additional funding to recruit the best and brightest, including interpreters, surveillance teams and forensic investigators.”