The development of a coordinated national security policy apparatus in Australia, with particular emphasis on counter-terrorism and, more recently, cyber security, has closely followed the introduction of similar policies in the United States since September 11, 2001.
Since 2001 the budgets of Australia’s intelligence services have more than doubled. On top of the funds the Australian government spent on defence in 2017-18, the Government committed increased funding towards the national security functions of a number of Government agencies, including the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and the Office of National Assessments.
Australia’s national security policy was centralised in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet in Australia’s first National Security Strategy, delivered by then-Prime Minister Julia Gillard in January 2013, signifying a desire within Australian politics to revamp the nation’s security capabilities.
Australia’s increased concern with people smuggling has also led to significant institutional reforms. Australia’s border security landscape has been overhauled in recent years, with the establishment of the Australian Border Force (ABF), a range of programs underway to improve Australia’s border security settings, and the increasing involvement of the private sector. In July 2015 the ABF officially began operating, completing a process first flagged two years ago and representing what has been described as a "quantum leap forward" in Australia’s national security. The ABF brings together existing operational border, investigations, compliance and enforcement functions of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection and the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service for the first time in Australia.
While much of the focus in national security is on material threats - organised crime, drug smuggling and terrorism - cyber security is a growing area of concern for both government and business.
The Government is increasingly focusing its attention on the importance of cyber security in the face of growing cyber-attacks and online terrorism, with the Prime Minister launching Australia’s Cyber Security Strategy in April 2016. The Prime Minister revealed that Australia has an offensive cyber capability and the Government has committed AUD$230 million to the strategy and its commitments, in addition to the AUD$400 million allocated to cyber security and intelligence capabilities in the Defence White Paper.
The renewed focus on cyber has been further supported by the appointment of Dan Tehan as Minister assisting the Prime Minister on Cyber Security, Alistair MacGibbon as Special Adviser to the Prime Minister on Cyber Security and Tobias Feakin as Australia’s inaugural Ambassador for Cyber Affairs.