Australia to get UK style super Home Affairs department

by Ray Clancy on July 18, 2017

in Australia

The Australian Government is to create a new UK style Home Office that will be responsible for immigration, including visas, border protection, domestic security and law enforcement.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said that the new Home Affairs portfolio will be similar to the Home Office in the UK, a central department providing strategic planning and coordination.

(David Hewison/Bigstock.com)

It will support a ‘federation’ of independent security and law enforcement agencies including the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Border Force and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission.

In effect it means transforming the current Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) into a super department and it is expected that it will be headed up by current Immigration Minister Peter Dutton.

We need these reforms, not because the system is broken, but because our security environment is evolving quickly. We are taking the best elements of our intelligence and national security community and making them better. As terrorists evolve their methods, we have to evolve our responses,’ said Turnbull.

He explained that while it is the biggest change for 40 years, current agencies will retain their statutory independence while supported by a central department that will oversee policy and strategic planning and the coordination of operational responses.

‘Importantly, Asio, the AFP and Australian Border Force will all report directly to the home affairs minister. This will ensure that these three important agencies have direct reporting into the cabinet,’ Turnbull added.

The new portfolio also incorporates the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (Austrac) and the office of transport security.

However, some think it might be too big. Lisa McAuley, chief executive officer of the Export Council of Australia (ECA), said that some of the DIBP’s current responsibilities are policy areas that are critical for Australia’s economy.

‘It is also responsible for making visas as accessible as possible, vital for supporting Australia’s boom in tourists and international students, and facilitating business travel. And it is responsible for making sure Australian businesses can access people with the right skills through the skilled migration programme,’ she pointed out.

‘These policy areas all have important security dimensions but they cannot be viewed only in that context. The ECA urges the Government to transfer policy responsibilities that support Australia’s economy from immigration and border protection to a minister who has greater scope to focus on improving Australia’s international competitiveness,’ she added.

‘A major step towards better coordination within government, and better outcomes for business, would be to now move responsibility for customs and visa policy to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, under the responsibility of the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment,’ she concluded.

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