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Cabinet to debate anti-terror overhaul of national security agencies

17 July 2017 8:39 AM
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Cabinet to debate anti-terror overhaul of national security agencies

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton will reportedly be given a greater role in coordinating counter-terrorism policies with the formation of a new super-ministry, it has been claimed.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is expected to seek approval from the Federal cabinet tomorrow to discuss the overhaul of national security coordination following a review of the intelligence community, The Australian reports.

The new ministry, which has been likened to the UK-style Home Office or US Department of Homeland Security, would change the lines of responsibility for key agencies such as the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and the Australian Federal Police.

The single department will reportedly oversee the AFP, ASIO, the Australian Border Force and the policy functions of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.

The prime minister today unveiled a raft of changes to terror response arrangements, including having special forces provide specialised training to local police officers.

Citing recent attacks in London, he insisted police would remain the first responders to any incident, but it was time to increase co-operation with the military.

Defence will offer soldiers for embedding within police forces to bolster engagement between authorities.

The process involved in a military "call out" to an incident will be streamlined, including abolishing a provision that limits the states from asking for military assistance until their capability has been exceeded.

Integrating departments such as attorney-general, Australian Federal Police, ASIO, Australian Border Force and immigration has previously been resisted in cabinet.

If Mr Turnbull’s proposed plan succeeds, the amalgamation will see ASIO operated outside the attorney-general's department for the first time since its formation.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Attorney-General George Brandis have previously argued those seeking change needed to demonstrate the existing system was not working, however Tony Abbott and Mr Dutton have advocated the mega-office approach.

Justice Minister Michael Keenan, who has also previously given the thumbs down to a Homeland Security agency, told reporters today the decision was up to the prime minister.

"I want to reassure all Australians that the arrangements we have in place at the moment are exceptionally effective and the evidence for that is the fact we have stopped a dozen terrorist attacks from occurring on our soil," Mr Keenan said.

When he was opposition leader, Mr Turnbull described an Australian homeland security department as "a cheap copy of an American experiment".

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".

The review, conducted by former senior public servants Michael L'Estrange and Stephen Merchant, is also understood not to recommend a super-portfolio.

Labor is expected to support the new measures, but wants a detailed briefing.

Source: 9news.com.au

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