Every few years since the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, a proposal to establish some sort of Australian homeland security department has been put forward as part of the national security policy of either the Liberal/National Coalition or the Australian Labor Party (ALP). Citing the US Department of Homeland Security and the UK Home Office as inspiration, its general purpose has always been to coordinate all the federal national security functions of government. However, rarely do the two major parties agree on the need for such a significant change, and as recent speculation over a possible new proposal shows, 2017 is no different.
The proposal for an Australian department of homeland security seems to have originated in late 2001 as ALP policy under Kim Beazley while in Opposition. It persisted as ALP policy until 2008 when Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, acting on the advice of a review of security arrangements, abandoned the idea altogether. The concept was resurrected in mid-2014 by the Abbott Coalition Government, until Prime Minister Tony Abbott also formally abandoned the idea less than a year later, acting on the advice of a review of Australia’s counter-terrorism machinery. Reports that the concept is once again under consideration, this time by the current Turnbull Government, appear to have surfaced in January 2017. This quick guide summarises the history of the concept since 2001.