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Issue #1788      August 2, 2017

Core immigration functions threatened

The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) is concerned the Turnbull government’s decision to create a new Home Affairs portfolio could compromise critical immigration and settlement functions, with no guarantees it will improve Australia’s security.

The new portfolio will be modelled on the United Kingdom’s Home Office, combining immigration, border protection and domestic security and law enforcement agencies (see last week’s Guardian).

CPSU national secretary Nadine Flood said: “We hold some serious concerns about this restructure. It appears this change hasn’t been recommended by the Turnbull government’s own intelligence review, and imposing such disruptive changes on these key agencies is an unnecessary step to get them working better together in any case.

“It appears at this stage that the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, including the Australian Border Force, is likely to be much more significantly affected by this than the AFP or ASIO. People working in these areas are understandably worried about job losses and further disruption to their important work.

The union says it is concerned that making the Immigration Department the base of a Home Affairs portfolio could mean a potential downgrading of Australia’s core immigration and settlement functions, particularly when it’s considered in light of the government’s proposal to privatise visa processing.

The merger of the Department of Immigration and Customs, which resulted in the creation of Border Force, “has been very difficult” and is still not fully bedded down after more than two years, says the union. That restructure in itself has not improved operations or security, let alone to the extent required to justify such disruption

“The government is also still attacking the pay and conditions of DIBP workers in the Fair Work Commission while freezing their pay for what’s now into a fourth year, so they’re feeling pretty bruised going into this change,” said Flood. “It’s hardly the way forward in ensuring the Department is operating as well as it can.

“There’s a disturbing irony in citing the UK as the basis for this new structure, given their Audit Office has raised serious concerns about the effectiveness of similar moves there. We followed the UK in merging Immigration and Customs to create Border Force and now look set to follow them again in putting Border Force into a Home Office super portfolio. Sadly, we also appear to be following them in having repeated agency restructures, funding cuts, low staff morale, questionable e-borders changes and challenges balancing passengers’ needs with enforcement.

“We are urgently seeking further information from the Turnbull government and the individual agencies involved in this. Thousands of people the CPSU represents are worried about their job security and the important work they do. They deserve answers.

Next article – Australian trade union solidarity with Venezuela

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