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Wednesday, 15 June 2011
Page: 6264

Mr McCLELLAND (BartonAttorney-General) (16:50): I thank the honourable member for his question. Firstly, in terms of the savings measures, they do not address the issue of illegal maritime arrivals, which I think was the subject of your question. But I will turn to that process in particular. I indicate that the resources of ASIO have been increased significantly. In fact, from 2001 to the current time ASIO has received an additional $352.4 million, and that is a 562 per cent increase. Just in our period in office, since 2007-08, ASIO has received an additional $123.6 million, or a 42.4 per cent increase. In the context of that resourcing, I can tell you the resourcing is justified. I see their work on a daily basis. Of course, it is necessary to persuade the community that their funds are being used appropriately.

The savings measures over the next four years of those amounts will total $20.9 million, but I should add the government will be injecting $122 million by way of capital contribution to their new building. So there is an increase in their overall budget. But, of those savings, $8.8 million over four years will be addressed through risk based reprioritisation of overseas training. There will be $5.3 million over four years for more accurate recoupment security assessments carried out on applications for maritime and airport security identification cards—in other words, increasing the charge. In terms of the issue of security assessments, before I come to the issue of illegal maritime arrivals, there will be savings of $6.9 million over four years achieved through risk based targeting of additional security checking for visa applicants other than unlawful maritime arrivals. I should say unlawful maritime arrivals will also be the subject of mandatory security checks, but that saving measure does not relate to unlawful maritime arrivals.

To address the specific subject matter of the member's question in respect of ASIO's involvement in undertaking security checks on unlawful maritime arrivals, as all members are aware, unlawful maritime arrivals are subject to health, identity and security checks. ASIO has been working with DIAC, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, to do what it can to speed up the process. That is effectively by undertaking a triaging process. It is a security process that has been designed and is managed by ASIO. ASIO is still involved in all steps of the process. Essentially, it enables ASIO to focus more closely on those cases that require attention, and that is what is occurring.

There has been some reference in the media to ASIO imposing time limits for these assessments to occur. That is not the case. There will be some assessments that can be undertaken quite quickly because the issues are not complex, given the nature of the circumstances, but there will be other circumstances. Given that it is not uncommon for these people to arrive without papers—indeed it is probably more common than not—there can be significant work in undertaking a proper security assessment. ASIO makes no apologies whatsoever for the fact that some of those assessments will take a considerable period of time. While they work hard to undertake those as quickly as possible, the bottom line is that they do not take any shortcuts when it comes to properly evaluating someone's security, and that is entirely appropriate.