Facing “serious threats” to its security, Australia today created a super-ministry and announced a sweeping overhaul of the country’s law enforcement, intelligence and security arrangements to combat the menace of terrorism. The new super-ministry, will combine the domestic spy agency, the federal police and customs and immigration departments into one office, and will be headed by current Immigration Minister Peter Dutton. The portfolio will be modeled on the UK Home Office.
The announcement was made by Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in Canberra who said that “it is the most significant reform of Australia’s national intelligence and domestic security arrangements and their oversight in more than 40 years.” “When it comes to our nation’s security, we must stay ahead of the threats against us. Now, my job as Prime Minister and our jobs as Ministers is to keep Australians safe,” Turnbull said.
The reforms will restructure and strengthen Australia’s Intelligence Community, establish a Home Affairs portfolio and enhance the Attorney-General’s oversight of Australia’s intelligence, security and law enforcement agencies. According to an official statement, Australia was facing an increasingly complex security environment, evolving threats from terrorism and organised crime, and the development of new and emerging technologies, including encryption and in view of these developments, Prime Minister had announced a review of Australia’s Intelligence Community last year.
The review concluded that Australia’s intelligence agencies were highly capable and staffed by skilled officers but also made many important recommendations to transform these agencies into a world-class intelligence community. The review highlighted how changing security threats and technologies were driving the need for closer cooperation between our domestic security and law enforcement agencies.
“Government believes that the evolving and complex threats to Australia’s security require more enduring and better integrated intelligence and domestic security arrangements,” the statement said, adding “We have accepted the recommendations of the Australian Intelligence Community review as a sound basis to reform Australia’s intelligence arrangements”.
Australia will establish an Office of National Intelligence, headed by a Director of National Intelligence, and transform the Australian Signals Directorate into a statutory agency within the Defence portfolio. It will also establish a Home Affairs portfolio of immigration, border protection and domestic security and law enforcement agencies. The changes will take one year to implement and are expected to be finalised by the end of next June.
Australia have been targeted by several attacks, including a cafe siege in 2014 where two hostages were killed in the terrorist attack staged by a Iran-born gunman inspired by the Islamic State militant group and the murder of a Sydney police employee in 2015 by a 15-year-old boy.
Australia is part of the coalition fighting the Islamic State group in Iraq and in late 2015 extended air operations into Syria, with a total of 780 defence personnel based in the Middle East. The terror threat alert level was has been lifted in Canberra in September 2014 and introduced new national security laws amid concerns of attacks by individuals inspired by the Islamic State.
String of arrests have been made by counter-terrorism police since late 2014 across the nation. The police have prevented 12 terror attacks on home soil in the past few years.