Published: Tue, July 18, 2017
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Peter Dutton becomes national security ministerial tsar in portfolio shake-up

Peter Dutton becomes national security ministerial tsar in portfolio shake-up

The department of Home Affairs will bring together domestic spy agency ASIO, the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Border Force, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, AUSTRAC and the office of transport security and will be put together over the next year.

But Dutton's stint as Immigration Minister has been punctuated by notable successes; after initially being dropped from the National Security Committee of cabinet, Turnbull quickly restored him amid a conservative outcry; he has unveiled sweeping changes to Australia's citizenship laws, kept the boats stopped, and become one of the leading go-to attack dogs, targeting Bill Shorten, on the Coalition frontbench.

Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull announced the former Queensland policeman's massive promotion in Canberra on Tuesday, suggesting the new department was modelled on the United Kingdom security set-up.

"We have been discussing how this would work and if it is best for Australia and the answer is 'yes, '" Dutton said on Tuesday.

"It is becoming more complex.we need a better structure to meet the challenge of the times and that is why we are adopting a model which is closer to the British Home Office than the large-scale American Homeland Security Department".

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The attorney-general's portfolio will also include the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security and the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor.

Malcolm Turnbull said the portfolio would be similar to the UK's home office arrangement, "a federation, if you will, of border and security agencies". This points the way to a summer reshuffle, with Attorney-General George Brandis widely tipped to exit parliament then.

But recently retired secretary of the defence department Dennis Richardson, speaking at the Lowy Institute, played down the significance of the changes, saying they were not some great advance. Justice Minister Michael Keenan would be on the security side but Turnbull did not say who would be the junior on immigration. It will now report to the Home Affairs Minister.

The Attorney-General will transfer oversight of ASIO to the new portfolio but will continue to be the issuer of warrants under the ASIO Act and ministerial authorisations under the Intelligence Services act.

He is also a conduit to Malcolm Turnbull and the moderates.

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