From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …
Share the boats. The Australian Border Force received the last of eight Cape Class patrol boats at the start of this month, on time, and seemingly on budget, with not a whiff of a press release, no minister or PM photo opportunity. Why the silence in a government that reportedly wanted weekly national security announceables up until the election? A tipster told us that the delivery, while announced by ship builder Austal, was kept on the down low because the Australian Border Force was transferring two of the eight boats to the navy, because they couldn’t recruit staff to run them. The Cape Class patrol boats require more crew than the existing Bay Class patrol boats, with 18 instead of 10 crew members, and a National Audit Office report in December last year noted that the department has already experienced issues with crewing the Bay Class patrol boats in recent years.
The ANAO report recommended that Border Force improve its workforce planning, and the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service “develops an appropriate strategic workforce plan to address future workforce requirements”. We asked the Border Force if boats had been transferred to the navy and why, but didn’t receive an official response by deadline. With Border Force and the navy sharing resources like patrol boats, it’s just one further sign that the new agency is a paramilitary force that should be on your radar.
Edit: Border Force media got back to us after deadline confirming that two boats had been transferred, but denied that it was because they didn’t have the budget or staff to run the boats.
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A spokesperson told Crikey that the Cape Byron boat had been on loan to the navy since July this year, and another would be on loan from October 1, with both vessels returning to the ABF at the end of next year:
“ABF works closely with ADF in protecting Australia’s borders. In particular the ABF Marine Unit (formerly Customs Marine Unit) and the RAN have long standing and complementary capabilities which form a core part of Australia’s border protection arrangements. The temporary transfer of two Cape Class vessels to RAN operations will further enhance inter-operability of personnel and equipment to meet this goal.”
Crikey understands that the navy’s Armidale class patrol boats are still not up to scratch, after it was reported last year that they were “riddled with defects”. So while the ABF maintains that it has the budget and the crew to run the boats, its resources are almost one and the same with the navy.
Clinton’s Aussie BFF. Big news: Hillary Clinton has a friend in Australia — and not just that, the friend is in Adelaide. It’s the big mystery of the South Australian capital today, with the Australian Financial Review publishing the big news that Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton has an unnamed close friend in the City of Churches.
“The friendship is further reason to believe that [Clinton’s] already strong diplomatic relations with Australia and its political class would persist if she becomes commander-in-chief,” the AFR reported.
The friend, whose identity wasn’t revealed by the AFR for “security reasons”, is believed to have known Clinton since their university days, and the “mystery woman” is thought to be in working in Adelaide’s university sector. One tipster wondered if it could be Jana Matthews, a prominent entrepreneur and professor at the University of South Australia, but she told us this morning that she was not the friend mentioned in the article. If you know who it is, drop us a line, we would love to thank her for her contribution to our diplomatic ties to the US.
Archives stay with AG. As reported in Crikey yesterday, Attorney General George Brandis has lost control of copyright and intellectual property in the ministerial reshuffle that resulted in Senator Mitch Fifield gaining the portfolios of Communications and Arts. Among the responsibilities transferred in the administrative arrangements orders, one area that isn’t mentioned is the National Archives, which were moved from Arts to the Attorney General’s office under the new government in 2013:
“Under Brandis’ administration responsibility for the Archives moved from the Arts to AGs so it was closely aligned with security. A worrying sign especially as the head of the National Archives had an ASIO background … felt a bit Stasi like that the archives would be managed by intelligence rather than a cultural body. The contrast with the marvellous and visitor friendly US Archives in Washington couldn’t have been sharper.”
While the National Film and Sound Archives have moved to Arts, the document doesn’t mention the National Archives, or the act that governs them. Some things change, others stay the same.
Cop talk. Former NSW shadow attorney-general Andrew Tink has delivered his report into streamlining police oversight systems to Premier Mike Baird.
The three-month inquiry was ordered by Baird, who retains responsibility for the Police Integrity Commission and the Independent Commission Against Corruption, two of the current police oversight bodies.
Tink, the former MP for Epping and a barrister-turned-successful writer, completed his report on August 31, but it remains lodged with paper shufflers in the Premier’s Department.
The review fulfils a Coalition pre-election commitment to the powerful NSW Police Association, which has links to the Liberal Party’s hard right and the NSW Nationals. In its pre-election shopping list the association demanded the transfer of all PIC functions to ICAC and also the police oversight arrangements of the NSW Ombudsman. “Tinky”, the new president of the NSW Library Council, is renowned for his obdurate approach to politics, so his report may be full of surprises.
Spies and books. The CIA’s social media manager seems to be having a good time today, tweeting about the benefits of libraries. The verified Twitter account’s bio reads “We are the Nation’s first line of defense. We accomplish what others cannot accomplish and go where others cannot go.” Well, maybe no one else thought to start their career as a spook in the library. Unfortunately there were no tips about reading between the lines.