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Australia has been planning large-scale shifts in the homeland security field. Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull is considering a proposal for a major restructuring of the federal government that would create a US-style Department of Homeland Security. The target of the plan is to improve coordination across the government in preventing terrorist attacks. Such a notion would merge at least half a dozen relevant federal agencies from two departments into a mega-department.
The enlarged department would be built on the existing Department of Immigration and Border Protection, which already includes the Australian Border Force. The putative minister for homeland security would be the current Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton. Mr. Dutton, the most senior conservative in the Turnbull cabinet, is understood to strongly favor the reorganiזation.
The relocated agencies would be stripped out of the Attorney-General’s department. It would be reduced to a legal advisory office, losing all its operational agencies including the Australian Federal Police and the domestic spy body ASIO (Australian Security Intelligence Organisation).
According to The Sydney Morning Herald, many ministers expect that Turnbull will remove the Attorney-General, George Brandis, from his cabinet by mid-year. Senator Brandis’ sacking would be the trigger for the reorganization. The Attorney-General is staunchly opposed to being moved on, and, together with other ministers, is understood to be strongly opposed to the proposed restructuring.
The PM has been keeping his intentions closely guarded. He’s held limited discussions with ministers on the proposal. Some ministers have heard word of the plan only through their civil service officials.
Remarkably for such a major change, no written proposal has been circulated within the government. “Because,” an official said, “it would have to be put together by the very bureaucracy determined to strangle this idea at birth”.
The US merged 22 agencies to create the Department of Homeland after the 9/11 2001 terror attacks exposed a deep problem of poor co-operation between agencies.
An Australian official said that Australia suffers a similar problem: “There are data jealousies between agencies, data gaps, a lack of full data sharing. Cooperation at the moment is episodic and personalized. The only thing that keeps the system functional is personal relationships”.
According to the source, all these dysfunctions would come out in the event that Australia suffered a mass terrorist attack.