Labor is seeking answers from the government about its national security overhaul, asking why the controversial “super ministry” is needed when it could prove disruptive, costly and result in less effective outcomes for the public.
The Turnbull government is proposing to create a new Canberra department combining the Australian Federal Police, Australian Border Force, and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation in a model based on the UK government’s Home Office structure to strengthen the country’s fight against terrorism.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull already held discussions with British counter-terrorism officials in London last week, telling reporters afterward that it was “no time for set and forget” when it came to national security policy. Cabinet is said to consider the proposal on Tuesday with an announcement expected later in the week, with Immigration Minister Peter Dutton likely to oversee the portfolio and department boss Michael Pezzullo as a possible pick for secretary.
AU Super Defense Department: The Opposition
However, Labor frontbencher, Senator Katy Gallagher insists the cabinet is still divided and calls on the government to be extremely careful in any overhaul of Australia’s security arrangements.
“Australians would be very concerned if a new national security super department is being created just to keep Peter Dutton happy, especially when it’s so vehemently opposed by so many of his colleagues,” she says. “We expect any changes to be based on the recommendations of our security agencies — we want to hear what the experts have to say.”
The peak public sector has held serious concerns about the proposal’s effectiveness since it was announced. Community and Public Sector Union boss Nadine Flood particularly said merging and moving agencies is “disruptive and not a prerequisite to them working better together.” She noted even the merger of Department of Immigration and Customs which created the Border Force has been very hard and is still not fully solid after over two years.
Flood says it’s unwise, warning against repeated agency restructures, funding cuts and falling staff morale.