The government has put its money where its mouth is when it comes to backing its increasingly hardline rhetoric on border security, flagging $1.2 billion to “enhance and strengthen Australia’s border and aviation security.”

There’s spending flagged across airport security, detention centre upgrades, a new passport issuing system and continuing co-operation with Indonesia to manage “irregular migration flows in the region.”

Initiatives include $143.8 million for capital funding for additional immigration detention facilities and $119.3 million over four years for the improvement of facilities, infrastructure and services on Christmas Island.

There’s also a further emphasis on the coastal guard — replacing “ageing Bay Class patrol boats with new enhanced vessels of longer patrol times over greater distances” and “$15.7 million over two years for the continued lease of the Ashmore Guardian patrol vessel from 1 July 2011 to 30 June 2013”.

The ship will be used primarily for apprehension of “illegal foreign fishers; monitoring environmental compliance; and countering people smuggling operations.”

$199.2 million has been flagged over five years for improved screening technologies, policing at airports and enhanced security procedures and $100.8 million over six years to deliver a new passport issuing system.

In addition, $69.4 million has been assigned over four years to introduce the biometric-based visa system (finger prints and facial images) for certain visa applicants in 10 overseas locations announced earlier in the year in the wake of the US Christmas Day security scare and to develop data sharing capabilities with partner countries.

And in perhaps further acknowledgement that the Christmas Island detention centre isn’t going to look any less crowded in the near future, $18.9 million has been assigned over four years to upgrade existing onshore detention facilities at Villawood, Port Augusta, and the Northern Immigration Detention Centre in Darwin.

In another nod to further solidifying the discourse with Indonesia over asylum seekers, $32.9 million over four years has been assigned to “enhance Indonesia’s capacity to manage irregular migration flows in the region and reduce the number of irregular migrants seeking to enter Australia.” This funding will “support enhanced visa processes and accelerated refugee status determination in Indonesia.”

The government will also provide $163.2 million over four years to “secure Australia’s northern waters against illegal foreign fishing.” The funding will “enable continuation of the apprehension, transfer, processing, detention, investigation and prosecution of illegal foreign fishers.”

And buried between Australian Customs and Border Protection Service and ASIO efficiencies, there’s a nod to the Australian Human Rights Framework: The Government will provide $18.3 million over four years to “implement a new framework for the protection and promotion of human rights in Australia” through raising awareness in the community and the public sector “through targeted education initiatives.”

Peter Fray

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