PM insists super ministry will make Australians safer

Malcolm Turnbull insists his new super security ministry will make Australia safer but Labor wants him to show how.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (left) and Immigration Minister Peter Dutton. Photo: AAP/Lukas Coch

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (left) and Immigration Minister Peter Dutton. Photo: AAP/Lukas Coch

The prime minister is spruiking his decision to combine national security agencies into one home affairs umbrella overseen by Peter Dutton.

Asked today if the merger will make Australia safer, Turnbull told the Nine Network: “Yes, it will.”

“Set and forget has no place in national security. Complacency has no place in national security,” he said.

Turnbull said the shake-up, modelled on the UK system, was long overdue and would be done if Australia’s security network was being designed from scratch.

“I don’t need a crisis to cause me to act,” he later told Triple M.

He refused to be drawn on whether Dutton’s new appointment was a way of pacifying the conservative, saying it was disappointing to see people trying to put a “political gloss” on the announcement.

“The only issue here is the safety of all Australians,” Turnbull said.

Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus remains unconvinced.

“As yet the government has not explained how it is that this very substantial change to our national security arrangements is going to indeed make Australians safer,” he told ABC radio.

Dreyfus said to his knowledge ASIO and other agencies did not call for the changes.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten spoke to Mr Turnbull on Tuesday night and said the party would not stand in the way of the changes but wanted advice from experts.

“We will work constructively with the government but they’ve announced what they say is the biggest overhaul in 40 years,” he told reporters in Sydney.

“Where is the problem to justify the biggest overhaul in 40 years?”

Dutton, who takes over ASIO, the Federal Police and Border Force, said the portfolio would make Australians safer because his sole priority as a cabinet minister would be national security.

He said agency heads were consulted and it was not done for political reasons.

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“The prime minister has been mulling over this for a long period of time to make sure that we get it right,” he told ABC radio.

“I believe we have got the balance right.”

Mr Dutton did not have an estimate on how much the arrangement changes would cost but said he wanted to see more money on the front line.

Michael L’Estrange, who led a review into Australia’s intelligence community, said the new ministry did not arise from any of his recommendations.

Nevertheless, he saw logic in the decision.

“Other countries with whom we compare ourselves have gone down this path,” he told ABC Radio on Wednesday.

“It was not the focus of our review but the principle underpinning our review – to build greater integration in intelligence – is a very important priority.”

The former head of the foreign affairs department has recommended the creation of an Office of National Intelligence to better co-ordinate and oversee activities across 10 agencies.

However, John Blaxland, the head of the Defence and Strategic Studies Centre at ANU, said the announcement appeared to be “more about politics than substantive fact-based organisational reform”.

He argued that the new governance arrangements ” risks diminishing the prospects of a clear connection between ministerial authority and ministerial responsibility”.

– with AAP

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