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Monday, 25 June 2018
Page: 6236


Mr NEUMANN (Blair) (19:40): There's more and more evidence piling up against the member for Dickson that he's simply a tick-and-flick minister as the Minister for Home Affairs. The Minister for Home Affairs is no stranger to scathing reports when it comes to out-of-touch government performance management of the now Department of Home Affairs. There have been: two ANAO reports into garrison support and welfare services on Manus Island and Nauru; two Commonwealth Ombudsman reports about the management and documentation of people held in immigration detention; an ANAO cybersecurity follow-up audit because of the department's failure to be cyber-resilient; and an independent report after two Australian citizens were wrongly detained in immigration detention.

On 6 June, the Auditor-General handed down its latest report, The integration of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection and the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service. The report investigated the merger of the department of immigration and customs as well as the establishment of the Australian Border Force between May 2014 and December 2017. Failure after failure had been detailed by the Auditor-General, showing a litany of errors made during the merger. As part of the integration, the Turnbull government used 33 contracts which were worth more than $1 million each, and 31 of these contracts were not evaluated upon completion, leaving it unclear whether the millions upon millions of taxpayers' dollars that were spent on these consultants were worth it. We know the department ended a two-year contract worth $17.6 million. The department ended the contract one year early because it wasn't satisfied with the performance of the firm they hired. Despite the fact the department ended the contract a year early, they'd already paid a staggering $17.1 million to the firm. The minister's department describes severing the contract and shelling out $17.1 million as 'terminated for convenience'. Only the out-of-touch Liberals would call wasting $17.1 million convenient.

On top of this wasted money, the department will collect less than one-third of the additional customs duty revenue they believed would result from the merger. The report found the department's record keeping continues to be poor and the department didn't maintain adequate records of the integration process. The department's own assessment of its records and information management is in a critically poor state. Regrettably, there's been a brain drain in the department, with almost half of the senior executive service officers working for the department in July 2015 no longer there two years later, which means the professional experts who protected Australia's national interests have deserted the department because of the Liberal government and the way it treats its workers. The minister will try to deny these failures, but the Department of Home Affairs has admitted to the identified shortfalls by agreeing to the recommendations of the Auditor-General.

Another failure by the Minister for Home Affairs is the arbitrary, unjustified and haphazard way he's cut access to the Status Resolution Support Services, the SRSS. The SRSS program provides short-term support to noncitizens, many of whom are vulnerable people, including a basic living allowance of 89 per cent of Newstart, casework support and access to trauma counselling. This vital assistance is provided while people wait for their immigration status to be resolved or for the department to make a decision on their visa applications. Senate estimates confirmed the minister approved SRSS eligibility changes in February and, some four months later, is still undertaking vulnerability assessments and doesn't know just how many of the 12,000 people currently receiving the assistance are going to lose access to their support because of his decision. The minister's poor mismanagement of these changes has only further exacerbated confusion and panic about how individuals, especially children, will be impacted. I wrote to the minister on 8 June this year to make it clear that Labor does not support his decision to remove SRSS in this way—and I await the courtesy of a reply.

The Minister for Home Affairs must stop playing politics with vulnerable people and immediately explain why the government have made these changes, who will be impacted and when these cuts will happen. Given all of these failures and shortcomings, the Minister for Home Affairs can't continue to run from his poor track record forever. If the Minister for Home Affairs is so out of depth when it comes to managing his own department, why has the Prime Minister granted him unprecedented powers over Australia's domestic security agencies? It's clear that the Prime Minister needs to appease the member for Dickson with a mega portfolio so that he can protect his own job.