A Look at the Home Affairs Dept

Here’s what Peter Dutton’s Home Affairs super-department looks like

Laura Tingle – ABC News 29 May 2018

A sign saying "Australian Government Department of Home Affairs" outside a tall building. There are leaves in the foreground

PHOTO: The Home Affairs Department has now been operating for five months. (ABC News: Matt Roberts)

When Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced the creation of the massive new Home Affairs portfolio in July last year, he called it “the most significant reform of Australia’s national intelligence and domestic security arrangements — and their oversight — in more than forty years”.

The announcement of the new portfolio — destined to have Coalition hard man Peter Dutton as its first minister — was greeted with lots of debate about whether the new agency would more closely replicate the United States’ Homeland Security Department or the British Home Office.

And there was lots of focus on what the changes meant for Mr Dutton’s influence within the Government.

But there was not so much on what the department would do.

Super-department accumulates from across government

It had been announced as part of the Government’s response to a review of its intelligence operations.

But the new department was not a recommendation of the review, which was focused on the intelligence agencies rather than operational departments which included border security and other aspects of the Government’s operations.

Home Affairs has now been operating for just over five months and it says something about the sheer size of the new department that it took a record two-and-a-half days last week for a Senate Estimates Committee to scrutinise the empire.

The new Department of Home Affairs swallowed up the Department of Immigration and Border Protection. From the Attorney-General’s Department, it has taken carriage of national security, emergency management and criminal justice functions.

The Office of Transport Security has been plucked from the Infrastructure Department.

Multicultural affairs has been absorbed from the Department of Social Services.

And from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Home Affairs has taken control of counter-terrorism coordination and cybersecurity.

The super-department also assumes responsibility for key agencies including ASIO, the Australian Federal Police, Australian Border Force, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission and AUSTRAC.

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