Boost for anti-gang squads amid border staff cuts

As the Federal Government continues to announce additional funding for strike teams to tackle organised crime syndicates, staff numbers will be reduced in Australia’s border protection department as a cap on employees and budget cuts are implemented across the next few months.

The latest budget statements reveal that the Department of Immigration and Border Protection needs to lower the average staffing level from 13,750 to 13,445 this financial year, meaning 305 jobs are on the line. A spokesperson confirmed that staff will be offered voluntary redundancies and pointed to a $116 million cut to the department’s budget as the root cause.

“The Department expects to offer a limited number of voluntary redundancies to Executive Level (EL) employees. The final number of offers will be determined through further budget and workforce planning,” the spokesperson said. “Reductions in non-EL staffing are expected to be reached largely through a combination of recruitment restrictions and natural attrition.”

But the Department does not expect the cuts to have negative effects on Australia’s border security. “Reductions in Executive Level staff numbers will not impact the delivery of the Department’s frontline services,” the spokesperson said, adding: “There is no hiring freeze. The Department considers the criticality and affordability of each vacancy in its recruitment decisions.”

On the same day as news of the staff cuts broke, Justice Minister Michael Keenan continued to roll out further funding for National Anti-Gang Squads (NAGS) and announced a $3 million boost to the New South Wales NAGS strike team. The funding follows similar investment in the Victorian task force, $6.2 million for the Western Australia division and $3 million for the Queensland team announced days after the NSW funding commitment.

The Queensland Strike Team was the first NAGS established as part of a $77 million nationwide investment to crack down on the threat posed by outlaw motorcycle gangs, while the NSW team has seen success since it was formed three year ago, seizing 122 firearms and ammunition thus far. Across the board, the Commonwealth-funded NAGS have arrested more than 1000 people, laid 3100 charges and seized 583 illegal guns to date.

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