The Home Affairs Portfolio (the Portfolio) constitutes the Department of Home Affairs, the Australian Border Force and independent statutory agencies—the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, and the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre.
As at 31 December 2018, The Department of Home Affairs (Home Affairs) and the Australian Border Force employed 14,276 staff under the Public Service Act. Of this total, 9,479 staff (66.4 per cent) are located in Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne, 4,243 staff (29.7 per cent) are located in other capital cities and 554 staff (3.9 per cent) are located in other areas around Australia and internationally.
The Portfolio contributes to Australia’s prosperity and security through a range of programs specifically targeted at delivering benefits to regional Australia. Through a large and longstanding presence in regional Australia, the Portfolio provides a variety of services, jobs and career pathways, providing tangible economic and social benefits to regional communities.
In 2019-20, the Portfolio will leverage the capabilities of its agencies to focus on strong border protection, strengthening national security, countering foreign interference, and disrupting serious and organised crime. Home Affairs continues to streamline visa, immigration and citizenship programs, enhance cyber security, strengthen trade enforcement and address the risks to the community from natural disasters to ensure Australia’s security, prosperity and unity.
The Portfolio is ensuring appropriate visa settings are in place to support regional business and produce incentives for migrants to live and work in regional areas. Home Affairs prioritises processing visa applications from skilled migrants wanting to work and live in regional Australia. Through programs such as the Designated Area Migration Agreements, Home Affairs staff are working in regions alongside local business to attract skilled migrants and address skills shortages.
The Portfolio continues to facilitate, support and secure sea and air ports to connect regional Australia to global markets and supply chains. Funding from the Australian Government provides border clearance services for people and goods at emerging regional air and seaports, developing new hubs for trade, tourism and investment. Home Affairs is working with regional airports to support the introduction of advanced aviation security screening technologies, so that regional aviation is protected against terrorist threats.
The Portfolio plays a central role in preventing the importation and distribution of harmful illicit drugs into Australia’s communities and combatting transnational and serious organised crime groups. This work is particularly important in regional communities that can be disproportionately affected by the harm caused by drugs such as methamphetamine (ice). Operating closely with local partners across Australia, Portfolio agencies work to reduce crime and protect the whole community while keeping the border open for business.
The Portfolio manages the Australian Government’s physical and financial support for disasters and emergencies, delivering programs, policies and services that strengthen Australia's emergency management capability. Home Affairs supports individuals and communities to prepare for extreme events, ensuring the most effective, well-coordinated response from our emergency services and volunteers when disasters hit. It also works swiftly and purposefully to help communities recover from disasters.
National Disaster Risk Reduction Framework
Climate related natural hazards are becoming more frequent and intense, with regional areas often affected heavily. Home Affairs in consultation with relevant agencies will undertake a one-year pilot to demonstrate the benefits of establishing a national climate and disaster risk information capability for Australia.
The pilot will develop credible risk scenarios and identify key information and modelling capabilities needed to help ensure the resilience of Australia’s regional freight network to climate and disaster risk, and preserve Australia’s prosperity into the future
Spending Approval for Natural Disaster Resilience Funding
With partner agencies, Home Affairs delivers nationally significant initiatives to reduce systemic disaster risk at the national level. The five-year commitment of $130.5 million will continue to fund initiatives that reduce existing risk, minimise creation of new risk, and deliver improved disaster risk information, in-line with the recently negotiated National Disaster Risk Reduction Framework. For regional communities, continued disaster resilience funding and coordinated national action to reduce disaster risk will limit the impact of disasters on built, social, natural and economic environments.
Revitalisation of the National Anti-Gangs Squad
Criminal networks pose a significant threat to the economies and social cohesion of regional Australia. Disrupting organised crime networks, including outlaw motorcycle gangs, is critical to reducing the manufacture and supply of illicit drugs.
The National Anti-Gangs Squad operates to detect, deter and disrupt the activities of criminal gangs and create a hostile environment for Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs in Australia. The National Anti-Gangs Squad continues to provide support to states and territories to disrupt illicit drug distribution networks and associated criminality in regional areas.
Commonwealth Support for the South Australia Joint Agency ‘Ice’ Strike Team
Home Affairs is working with South Australia Police as they lead the Joint Agency ‘Ice’ Strike Team to target the importation and trafficking of methamphetamine (‘Ice’) and its precursors into South Australia. The number of seizures from manufacturing ‘super labs’ in regional South Australia suggests ice consumption is a significant issue in regional areas. The Joint Agency Ice Strike Team will complement the work of the National Anti-Gangs Squad.
New Visas to Support Regional Australia
Three new visas will be introduced to support migration to regional Australia. Home Affairs will implement the Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) visa and the Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional) visa which will require visa holders to live and work in regional Australia. The Skilled Employer Sponsored Visa (Provisional) will operate under the sponsorship framework of the Migration Act which is designed protect foreign workers from exploitation and ensure labour market need is met through domestic labour first.
The Permanent Residence visawill be the permanent pathway for the two new visas. It will require primary visa holders to meet a minimum taxable income threshold for three years as the holder of the provisional visa, and to have adhered to regional compliance visa conditions.
Appropriate compliance measures will be necessary to deliver the full potential for regional Australia, and to ensure migrants seeking to live permanently in Australia uphold their commitments and visa conditions.
Extension of Temporary Graduate Visa Period for Certain Regional International Graduates
Currently, some international students are eligible for a Temporary Graduate visa to live work and study in Australia after they complete their studies. Temporary Graduate visas are granted for periods of up to two or four years, depending on the level of study completed, and are limited to a single visa grant. As an added incentive for students to study in regional areas, international students who complete a bachelors or higher qualification in a regional area and who reside in a regional area for the duration of their first Temporary Graduate visa will be eligible to apply for a second Temporary Graduate visa. This second Temporary Graduate visa for international students in regional areas will be granted for a period of one year.
The proposal would allow the benefits of this valuable export industry to be better shared across the country, helping to address regional skill shortages.
Arafura Games—Visa Application Changes
Home Affairs will grant a full visa application charge exemption for athletes and officials participating in the 2019 Arafura Games. The influx of participants to the games provides social and economic benefits for the Northern Territory, through increased tourism and opportunities for regional cooperation on trade and investment. As a result, the Northern Territory Government and community will enjoy strengthened relationships with other governments and communities from across the Asia-Pacific region.
Border Protection, Seaports and Airports
Home Affairs is providing ongoing funding for aviation security initiatives to improve the security of Australian airports and travellers—important infrastructure underpinning regional tourism and economies. These initiatives include upgrading screening equipment at airports and strengthening airport precinct security and strengthening security measures in air cargo and mail.
Safer Communities Fund
The Safer Communities Fund provides grant funds to local government and community organisations to address crime prevention initiatives and to protect our schools, pre-schools, community organisations and places of religious worship that are facing security risks associated with racial or religious intolerance,, including those in regional areas.
Global Talent Initiative
The Global Talent Initiative will attract high calibre migrants to Australia. The Global Talent Initiative will allocate up to 5,000 places from the annual migration program. The Government will work with industry, business, research, and arts sectors to identify and attract global talent to Australia.
Changes to the Seasonal Workers Program and the Pacific Labour Scheme
Australia has established international agreements with certain Pacific Island countries to facilitate two ‘circular’ temporary labour mobility programs—the Seasonal Worker Program and the Pacific Labour Scheme. A range of reforms were introduced to these programs in November 2018 to allow them to better address labour shortages in regional Australia.
Both schemes support regional industries by providing an alternative and reliable labour source in times of high seasonal demand. Streamlining the Seasonal Worker Program and uncapping the Pacific Labour Scheme will increase the number of Pacific workers in Australia, enable employers to retain trained and experienced employees for longer and simplify the recruitment process.
Changes to the Working Holiday Maker Visa Program
The Working Holiday Maker Visa program fosters closer ties between Australia and partner countries by allowing visa holders to supplement their holiday with short-term employment. A number of changes were announced in November 2018 to support rural and regional communities.
The changes support an increase in the number of working holiday makers in Australia that regional employers can access for seasonal work, and enable employers to retain trained and experienced employees doing agricultural work for up to one year (previously six months). The availability of a third-year visa will also attract working holiday makers to work for longer in regional Australia.
Home Affairs funding is available to help regional communities recover from a range of natural disaster events, from widespread flooding in north Queensland to severe bushfires in Tasmania. Under the joint Commonwealth-State Government funded Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements, the Australian Government provides up to 75 per cent of the financial assistance to state and territory governments for counter disaster operations, restoration of essential public assets, community recovery packages and recovery grants for farmers and small business owners.
Through the Preparing Australia Package, the Australian Government provided $26.1 million in 2018-19 for targeted investments in key emergency management and disaster preparedness initiatives, including in regional Australia. The package bolstered the capabilities of state and territory emergency agencies and supported community preparedness by providing funding for a number of activities.
Attracting Skilled Migrants to Regional Areas
Home Affairs is introducing initiatives to increase the attractiveness of regional areas to prospective skilled migrants. The initiative includes expanding the use of Designated Area Migration Agreements, supporting enhanced visa processing for regional areas, and establishing a Regional Migration Hub to undertake outreach activities to support regional employers to access skilled migrant workers. Through increasing points under the Migration Points Test, skilled migrants will be incentivised to move to regional Australia.