Federal Budget 2018: Home Affairs review and security clearance boost


It only came into existence a few months ago, but the government is already planning a strategic review of the Department of Home Affairs.

The review, to cost $7 million and report before the next budget, “will identify opportunities for integrating capabilities, reducing duplication and maximising efficiencies from the creation of the new portfolio”.

The government is already banking on significant savings through the creation of Home Affairs, with over $250 million predicted to be saved over five years across the portfolio through creating centres of expertise, achieving economies of scale through coordinated procurement and service delivery functions, and reducing duplication.

The money saved this way will be redirected into frontline operational activity, says the government.

It’s just one of the many national security and Home Affairs measures included in Tuesday’s federal budget.

And it’s not even the only review — the government is also promising a comprehensive review of the legal framework governing Australia’s intelligence community and related oversight bodies. The Office of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security will receive a $52 million boost to help it oversee the intelligence agencies, in response to recommendations of the 2017 Independent Intelligence Review.

The government will establish an Office of National Intelligence and a Joint Capability Fund to further integration of intelligence capabilities, but isn’t saying how much it’ll cost for national security reasons.

The Department of Home Affairs will get $130 to upgrade its ICT infrastructure for visa processing, identity management and threat analysis so they can better detect and prevent threats.

It looks like security clearance assessments will cost agencies more but move faster. The process will be bolstered with the establishment of a Criminal Intelligence Checking Capability under the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, which will be used for all new and existing government, maritime and aviation security clearance applications. This measure will be revenue neutral as the cost will be recovered through additional charges applied to applications.

Then there’s the government’s airport security bonanza, with $122 million to increase the presence and capability of the Australian Federal Police and Border Force at nine major airports, as well as $122 for cargo and mail screening, and $50 million to help regional airports upgrade screening technologies.

The budget includes $69 million to establish the new Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation, providing a hub of specialised personnel targeting criminals engaged in child exploitation, and $59 million to set up a National Criminal Intelligence System to share information across the country and make it more difficult to avoid authorities.

Biosecurity receives $102 million of extra funding to improve prediction, surveillance, and enforcement of biosecurity risks.

ASIO gets more money, with an increase of $24 million “to support current operations and undertake preliminary work to enhance future operations” — but of course as it’s ASIO they’re not being any more specific than that.

An Anti-Slavery Unit will be established within the Department of Home Affairs to help with implementation of the modern slavery reporting requirement, to ensure slavery is not occurring in Australian companies’ supply chains.

The government will spend $62 million to keep the Border Force cutter Ocean Shield operating at surge capacity to prevent people smuggling.

The first Commonwealth Transnational Serious and Organised Crime Coordinator will be appointed.

Plus there’s $5 million for grants to community organisations assisting newly arrived migrants to integrate into Australian society.


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