Australia’s New ‘Department of Home Affairs’, like U.S. DHS, Merges Multiple Agencies, While Creating Challenges and Opportunities

​On July 18, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced the establishment of the Department of Home Affairs. Turnbull advocated for greater integration of domestic and border security operational agencies in order to improve strategic policy planning and coordination between them. However, he claimed, “this is not a United States-style Department of Homeland Security. The agencies will retain their current statutory independence.” The new Department will integrate the following agencies:

  • Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO)
  • Australian Federal Police (AFP)
  • Australian Border Force (ABF)
  • Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission
  • Australian Transactions Reports and Analysis Center (AUSTRAC)
  • Office of Transport Security

The Department will be headed by a Minister of Home Affairs, which will be Peter Dutton, the current Minister for Immigration and Border Protection. He will oversee the development of this new agency and determine what legislative changes and operational planning needs implementation. A Minister of Immigration and a Minister of Security will each report the Minister of Home Affairs.

Reception of the newly announced Department of Home Affairs has been mixed. One prominent critic, John Blaxland of the Strategic and Defense Studies Centre within the Australian National University, has called the Home Affairs model “fraught with danger”. He argues the migration of several different agencies under the Minister of Home Affairs undermines existing bureaucracies and oversight mechanisms.

Contrarily, Director of the National Security Institute at the University of Canberra, Peter Leahy, states the newly developed department will improve intelligence and security coordination allowing Australia to tackle long term issues. Finally, others such as John Coyne, current head of Border Security at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, argue the Department of Home Affairs must first resolve its public relations issues and regain civilian trust. Only after doing so can the newly developed department potentially be successful.  

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