Homeland Affairs

In 2014, Monash University’s Ben Eltham and I argued in a Contemporary Security Policy article that there were organisational silos in Australian defence and national security policymaking. These organisational silos were a combination of conceptual, institutional, and policymaking gaps.


Australia’s Turnbull Government yesterday announced a new Homeland Affairs portfolio:


The Government will establish an Office of National Intelligence, headed by a Director-General of National Intelligence, and transform the Australian Signals Directorate into a statutory agency within the Defence portfolio.

The Government will also establish a Home Affairs portfolio of immigration, border protection and domestic security and law enforcement agencies.

The new Home Affairs portfolio will be similar to the Home Office of the United Kingdom: a central department providing strategic planning, coordination and other support to a ‘federation’ of independent security and law enforcement agencies including the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Border Force and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission.

These arrangements will preserve the operational focus and strengths of frontline agencies engaged in the fight against terrorism, organised crime and other domestic threats.

In view of these significant reforms, the Government will also strengthen the Attorney-General’s oversight of Australia’s intelligence community and the agencies in the Home Affairs portfolio.


Yesterday’s press conference, media coverage, and media interviews largely focused on the new US-style Homeland Affairs ministry under Peter Dutton’s control, and the Attorney-General’s counter-balancing oversight role. It did not discuss the planning and coordination changes to the Australian Intelligence Community or the likely effects on ‘street level bureaucrats’. It would be interesting to do so. Ben Eltham’s initial response is here.