By Ashna Butani
On Tuesday, Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced the fusing of security forces in the country. In order to curb the rise of lone-wolf attacks, the Prime Minister has decided to merge the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), the Australian Police Force, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, financial intelligence agency AUSTRAC and the Office of Transport Security.
The centralised model will secure greater cooperation among the security agencies in Australia. Earlier this year, the PM was waiting for the findings of the 2017 Independent Review of the Australian Intelligence Community before making changes. After receiving the report that studied the security agencies in detail, Turnbull announced this change which has stirred controversy amongst the cabinet members.
A sudden revelation
In September 2014, Numan Haider attacked counter-terrorism detectives outside a suburban police station. Ever since then, the country has seen efficient law enforcement and successful foiling of terror attacks by intelligence agencies. However, Australia’s vulnerability to lone-wolf attacks in recent years has led to the sudden decision to centralise powers.
In recent years, the government’s goal of reducing the availability of illegal drugs and impacting organised crime has not been achieved. Key performance indicators reveal that the cause for this inefficiency is policy setbacks rather than failed operational efforts. The separate task forces for fusing and sharing intelligence has impeded development in this sphere as well.
The proposed changes
The security forces that were previously headed by three officials will now be brought under one head—Immigration Minister Peter Dutton. It is believed that this move will ensure better cooperation. Prior to these changes, the military could be called after a terror incident only if the police declared that they could not deal with the issue at hand themselves. The proposed changes include the proposition that the state and territory governments will instead be able to call for military help immediately after a terrorist activity has been declared.
These changes will simplify the process of security in the country. However, simplicity and efficiency are not the same, and many are critical of this proposal’s ability to deliver both. Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who considered making this move a decade ago, rejected the idea since he believed it was “less accountable, less agile, less adaptable and more inward looking“.
A better system?
Despite facing severe criticism, the centralised system is expected to coordinate and implement national security strategies more efficiently. Once the changes are fully accepted by the Cabinet, it might take a few years to realise the full potential of the centralised Australian Department of Homeland Security. Rumour has it that the changes are merely a move by the PM to keep Dutton on his side.
The PM, however, said that he seeks to ensure that the professional security services perform their duties efficiently. The reasons for a new system may be varied, but its goal is clear. The future of this nation-altering policy change is now in the hands of the Senate.
Featured Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
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