It has been three years since the government departments responsible for immigration and customs were merged to create a single entity, but a new report has revealed that the department is failing to deliver on its promise of increased revenue with Labor suggesting they may scrap the so-called super department if they were to get into parliament.
A National Audit Office (ANAO) report, published on Wednesday, showed that the promised benefits of the 2015 amalgamation have not yet been realised. The department, headed by Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton, has so far been unsuccessful in meeting the forecast levels of extra revenue which were committed to at the time of the merger.
Following the announcement that the departments were to be united, then immigration minister Scott Morrison pledged to rack up “hundreds of millions in savings”, however the ANAO report found that, by the end of 2017, just 42.2 per cent of the promised extra income had actually materialised.
The damning report was met with a swift response from Labor as Shadow Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Shayne Neumann pointed the finger at Mr Dutton for not “doing his job properly”, before suggesting that the opposition may consider disbanding the united department if they are elected at the next election.
Speaking on ABC radio on Thursday, the opposition spokesman said: “It’s not surprising their morale’s poor, it’s not surprising there are people who have left the department, and it’s not surprising there are issues, if the minister and the departmental leadership are not doing their job properly.”
When asked what Labor’s stance would be, should they be elected into power, Neumann said they had not yet decided on the potential future of the Department of Home Affairs, saying: “We’ll make that decision closer to the election, and Bill Shorten will announce it in relation to this matter.”
According to The Australian, Mr Dutton said that he is not surprised by Labor’s suggestion to “pull Home Affairs apart”. He told the newspaper: “It’s all about the politics for them. This will be some sort of horse-trading to get the boats policy through conference.
“They shouldn’t be playing politics with national security. These are dark days for the Labor Party – this is the weakest the Labor Party has ever been on border security.”
The negative audit report also claimed that half of senior staff in the newly created Australian Border Force had left the department, and criticised the department for its poor record keeping.
Auditor-General Grant Hehir said: “The department’s own assessment is that its records and information management is in a critically poor state. The problems and their solutions are known to the department, and it has an action plan to address them, although numerous previous attempts to do so have not been successful.”
The integration of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection and the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service was announced in 2014 and came into effect the following year. Following this, the department was further unified with other security, law enforcement and criminal intelligence agencies in 2017, creating the Department of Home Affairs, in a bid to combat the growing risk of terrorism and border control.
According to the ABC, Home Affairs secretary Mike Pezzullo previously described the cost of setting up the new department as “quite modest” and revealed the government had so far spent $85,400 on building signage and $5,320 on new corporate templates for official documents.
The department upgrade is believed to be the most expensive in federal government history and was last year estimated to cost about $256 million in total.