New national security super-ministry is about safe politics, not just safety

18 July, 2017, 10:17 | Author: Valerie Burke
  • Mr Dutton will head up a new super-portfolio that will enhance coordination and cooperation among the different bodies fighting terror

Australia will create a new government super-ministry to oversee all its domestic national security agencies, PM Malcolm Turnbull has said.

The change is part of the most significant reform to national intelligence and domestic security arrangements in more than 40 years, he says.

"It will only become more critical as threats continue to evolve", Turnbull told a news conference, flanked by Brandis, Dutton and Justice Minister Michael Keenan.

Mr Dutton will become the Home Affairs Minister.

"For the almost four years I've been in the Attorney-General portfolio, and the (ASIO) responsibility has been with me".

The changes include moving agencies now charged with overseeing intelligence from the prime minister's department, to the attorney-general's department.

Senator Brandis is still the Attorney-General but that department has been stripped of responsibility for ASIO.

Malcolm Turnbull said the portfolio would be similar to the UK's home office arrangement, "a federation, if you will, of border and security agencies".

This was an assertion refuted by the Prime Minister this morning. who said the reforms were warranted: "not because the system is broken, but because our security environment is evolving quickly".

A 2015 review of Australia's counter-terrorism machinery found a super agency "would likely be less, not more, responsive as large agencies tend to be less agile, less adaptable and more inward looking than smaller departments".

But recently retired secretary of the defence department Dennis Richardson, speaking at the Lowy Institute, played down the significance of the changes, saying they were not some great advance.

Turnbull said that Dutton would have two ministers working to him one on the security side and the other on the immigration side.

The plan is for the changes to be implemented by a taskforce by June 30. A taskforce will work on the complicated reorganisation; in the meantime the agencies will continue to report to their current ministers.

The Cabinet shake-up came a day after Turnbull said Australia's military would be more readily deployed to respond to "terrorist incidents" at home.

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