Hartcher said that the Secretary of the Department of Immigration and Border Security, Mike Pezullo, was promoting the idea with the support of his Minister, Peter Dutton.
The idea of a Department of Homeland Security first appeared as part of Kevin Rudd’s 2007 election manifesto.
After the election Rudd dumped the idea, drawing a comment from the then Opposition Leader, Malcolm Turnbull, that “this is one broken promise for which we can all be thankful.”
The idea made a brief comeback under Tony Abbott when Scott Morrison fancied a bit of empire building but it met concerted opposition from Julie Bishop and George Brandis.
Pezullo no doubt senses that the Prime Minister will want to reshape his front bench after the budget so that he’ll have a stronger team going into the election.
Dutton no doubt wants to strengthen his position for the next leadership contest whenever it comes.
The new proposal involves the reallocation of responsibilities from the Attorney General’s portfolio: ASIO and the Australian Federal Police wouldmove into the new department but not the Australian Signals Directorate (from Defence) or the Australian Security Intelligence Service (from Foreign Affairs).
With rumours that Attorney General George Brandis will be going to London mid-year, it will be opportune for the vultures to attack the AG’s departmental carcass.
However it would be foolish to expect the boss of ASIO, former general and national security adviser, Duncan Lewis to surrender his authority meekly.
Lewis would consider that he was better qualified to run a security department than Mike Pezullo and may well make a play for the top job.
In the meantime senior cabinet Ministers and the Prime Minister would have to be convinced the change was worthwhile which won’t be easy
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