Crikey has obtained a copy of the Secretary of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship’s Weekly Message, and going by the memo, times are tough at DIAC.

Andrew Metcalfe’s message stresses that the department’s budget hasn’t been cut this financial year, in fact it’s “larger than ever before”, but there are a few minor tasks that have been added to DIAC’s workload, namely the “457 visa arrangements and the citizenship test”.

Staffing numbers at DIAC currently run at around 7,000 – 30% more than two years ago, but an Immigration insider told Crikey, “how can the Department survive based on 45% budget allocated to critical infrastructure (IT, Property etc.), 40% on staff and on-costs and only 15% for other administrative expenses? Can’t be done. You do not need a slide rule for that.” 

Metcalfe’s memo asks staff to tighten their belts, and when it comes to cutting costs at the Department of Immigration, we’re not talking reducing the fancy biscuit intake in the staff kitchen:

I know it is challenging to critically examine work priorities and find savings and efficiencies. I expect that, as your SES leaders put carefully considered measures in place, you will see differences in how work is allocated and delivered, as well as changes to staffing levels.

All areas of the department are facing similar challenges and I understand it is not easy. I have asked your SES leaders to manage risks and look for ways to make every dollar count. I am pleased to see that they are doing this.

Crikey assumes the cuts won’t compromise the improvements talked up by the Department in the wake of the Palmer Report, objectives like “improving client service, immigration enforcement, compliance, case management, training, detention arrangements, health services for detainees, identity verification and record keeping.”

But Crikey’s Immigration insider isn’t so sure: “The National Training Branch budget was reduced from $17M to $12M to save money. So much for ‘Well Trained and Supported Staff, it should read, ‘Well trained and Supported Staff’ based upon budgetary constraints.”

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Peter Fray

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