Home Affairs: Supporting Regional Recovery and Growth

The Department of Home Affairs provides strategic policy leadership and central coordination to support the Home Affairs Portfolio. The Portfolio comprises the Department of Home Affairs, including the Australian Border Force, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre.

The Portfolio has diverse responsibilities in supporting a prosperous, secure and united Australia. These responsibilities include managing and responding to civil contingencies and national emergencies, domestic elements of national security, critical infrastructure security, including transport security, federal law enforcement, criminal justice, cyber security, intelligence, border control, immigration and citizenship, multicultural affairs and trade related functions. A strategy-led and coordinated approach ensures the Portfolio delivers outcomes for Australia’s rural and regional community on behalf of the Australian Government.

The Portfolio provides programs and services that have tangible economic and social benefits for Australians living in rural and regional areas. In 2020, the Portfolio played a lead role in protecting Australian communities across the country by coordinating the whole-of-Government response to the non-health aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic, including supply chains and transport links. Home Affairs is supporting economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic by ensuring the retention of skilled workers for critical sectors and facilitating investment and innovation, so important for the regions.

Changes to the temporary activity visa allows more flexibility to encourage temporary visa holders to support Australian farmers struggling to find workers during COVID-19. The simplification of trade regulation is helping businesses, especially food exporters in the regions, by cutting costs and facilitating trade.

The Portfolio’s various functions also support the safety and security of Australia’s regional communities, including by protecting national borders, supporting law enforcement and responding to national emergencies. Australians living in regional areas, and sectors such as mining, transport and agriculture, will benefit from the Government’s efforts to increase the cyber security of the Australian economy and improve the security and resilience of critical infrastructure and systems of national significance. The National Flood Mitigation Program will help local communities reduce the impact of severe floods, boost economic development and job creation in regional Australia. The Portfolio is also boosting national law enforcement efforts to combat child sexual abuse in regional Australia and Indigenous communities and providing increased access to relevant services.

As at 31 December 2020, the Home Affairs Portfolio employed 15,232 staff under the Public Service Act 1999. Of this total, 10,615 staff (70 per cent) are employed in Canberra, central Melbourne and central Sydney, 4,200 staff (28 per cent) in other capital cities and 417 staff (3 per cent) in regional areas. The Home Affairs Portfolio has a footprint in over 50 locations nationally, including all Australian capital cities, and staff deployed geographically to regional centres and remote regional areas.

Since mid-2020, both the Australian Border Force and the Australian Federal Police have deployed senior leaders at the Assistant Commissioner level to Perth, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. Staff in regional areas play a critical role in delivering Government priorities, and are critical to the Home Affairs Portfolio’s contribution to the Australian Public Service’s Surge Reserve. The Home Affairs Portfolio will continue to consider relocation opportunities that are aligned with operational demands.

New Initiatives

Enhance National Law Enforcement Child Protection Capability

The Australian Government will allocate $59.9 million to the Australian Federal Police (AFP) over four years from 2021-22 to boost frontline national law enforcement efforts to prevent, disrupt, investigate and combat online child sexual abuse and exploitation. Law enforcement initiatives led by the AFP will have a positive impact on regional Australia and Indigenous communities through education programs to raise child safety awareness. This funding will also enhance capabilities, alongside efforts by the AFP-led Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation in driving a collaborative national response to counter the exploitation of children.

2021-22 Migration and Humanitarian Programs

The 2021-22 Migration Program will build on Australia’s success in managing the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic by driving economic recovery and social cohesion outcomes. This will be done by maintaining the Migration Program planning ceiling at 160,000 places, with around 50 per cent of the program dedicated to skilled visas, and giving priority to highly skilled migrants in the employer sponsored Business Innovation and Investor Program and Global Talent visa cohorts. Continued flexibility to shift skilled migration places will ensure the program can readily adapt in an uncertain COVID-19 impacted environment.

The Migration Program will benefit regional communities through dedicated state and territory nominated and regional visa categories, and a focus on migrants who fill critical needs and contribute to economic recovery. The number of places available to Family visa categories will be set at 77,300 places for 2021-22.

The Humanitarian Program will continue at a ceiling of 13,750 places for 2021-22, the same level as in 2020‑21. This will ensure that Australia remains one of the most generous humanitarian resettlement countries in the world, maintaining the Australian Government’s long-term commitment.

National Flood Mitigation Infrastructure Program

On 10 December 2020, the Government established a National Flood Mitigation Infrastructure Program, providing $50 million from the 2020-21 pre disaster resilience component of the Emergency Response Fund to support State, Territory and local governments to reduce the impact of severe flood events on communities. An additional $50 million will be provided in 2021-22 as part of the 2021-22 Budget.

The program will help fund essential public assets including dams, levees, weather radar systems and flood warning infrastructure. The program will fund essential public assets across the nation that will:

  • reduce the impacts of floods on Australian communities
  • contribute to reducing eligible expenditure under the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements
  • encourage positive change in the insurability of infrastructure
  • address relevant household or local government insurance affordability.

The program is expected to stimulate regional and national economic growth and local job creation.

Securing Australia’s Future Connectivity

The Australian Government will provide $31.7 million over four years from 2021-22 to support the initiative Securing Australia’s Future Connectivity. The initiative will support the ‘Secure G’ Connectivity test lab, modelled to undertake testing on measures, protocols, standards and software-based technologies that form part of 5G's security architecture. Funding will also support the 6G research and development program which will accelerate the commercialisation of secure connectivity technologies and security offerings by providing the foundational research and incentives to build sovereign, exportable offerings upon.

Cyber threats and security risks to Australia’s digital connectivity ultimately affect whether regional Australians can access, and businesses can trade within, the digital economy. The initiative will benefit Australians in regional areas, including small and medium sized businesses, by ensuring that they can securely harness the economic and social benefits presented by ultra-fast, secure connectivity. This ties into the Government’s overall priority to bridge the digital divide between metropolitan and regional Australia.

The initiative will economically benefit industries that rely upon ultra-fast connectivity, who will be able to securely leverage 5G’s productivity benefits. In particular, the initiative will benefit regional sectors, such as mining and agriculture which use 5G and future connectivity to support the Internet of Things and smart regions applications.

Current Initiatives

National Aerial Firefighting Capability

The Australian Government provided an additional $11 million per year, indexed, from 2020-21, to a total of $26.2 million in 2021-22, to the National Aerial Firefighting Centre to ensure a national aerial firefighting capability is available to reduce the impact of bushfires on Australian communities, particularly in regional areas. The National Aerial Firefighting Centre arrangements allow state and territory operational fire chiefs and commissioners flexibility in accessing the right type and mix of aircraft in line with the seasonal fire risk. The additional funding will increase access for jurisdictions to specialised aerial firefighting resources, including large air tanker capability.

Australian Federal Police Funding Model

The Australian Federal Police commenced a new funding model in 2020-21 at a cost of $300.2 million over four years from 2020-21 ($18.4 million in 2021-22). The model ensures the AFP maintains its frontline policing capacity, enhances its surge capacity, and provides for a healthy and agile workforce. The model also provides the AFP with enhanced planning certainty; the ability to direct resources to the highest criminal risks and to strategically combat new or increasing risks to Australia and its national interests. COVID-19, for example, has required the AFP to take on new roles to support the integrity of Australia’s borders and protect the community from infection, including enforcing travel restrictions into remote Indigenous communities.

Extension of North West Point Immigration Detention Centre on Christmas Island

The North West Point Immigration Detention Centre on Christmas Island was reactivated in August 2020 to accommodate unlawful non-citizens including those released from prisons, but unable to be deported due to COVID‑19 travel and border restrictions. This measure is to address capacity challenges in the immigration detention network and increase community safety while removal operations, including prison-to-plane removals are impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.