The Australian Government's significant reforms to border protection are another step closer, with the introduction of the legislation to establish the Australian Border Force (ABF).
The Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Peter Dutton today introduced the Australian Border Force Bill 2015 into Parliament, which delivers on the Government's ongoing commitment to the enhanced border protection arrangements announced in May 2014.
Mr Dutton said the cornerstone of the Bill is the creation of an operational border control and enforcement entity.
"A strong and prosperous economy and a safe and secure Australia are only possible if our borders are secure for legitimate trade, travel and migration," Mr Dutton said.
The ABF will be the operational arm of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) and will be led by the ABF Commissioner who will be Australia's most senior border law enforcement officer.
The Commissioner will have a dual role as the Comptroller-General of Customs, with responsibility for the enforcement of Customs law and collection of border-related revenue.
In performing these critical functions, the ABF will work in close partnership with a range of Commonwealth, state, territory and international law enforcement and intelligence agencies, including the Australian Defence Force and the Australian Federal Police.
Mr Dutton said the Commissioner will lead a highly trained and flexible workforce which will be deployed from the ranks of Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (ACBPS) and DIBP staff as well as external applicants.
"These officers will protect Australia's borders through the enforcement of customs, immigration and maritime security laws," Mr Dutton said.
Under the new border protection arrangements, the responsibilities of the Department will be expanded to include functions currently performed by ACBPS.
"By bringing together staff with experience in dealing with both goods and people, we are able to better respond to threats to Australia's border. Integrating immigration and customs functions is also an important contribution to the delivery of efficiencies," Mr Dutton said.
In addition to establishing the ABF, the Bill introduces new requirements for officers working in the border environment.
"The public must have confidence in the agencies and people charged with protecting them so this Bill introduces new employment, integrity and information protection requirements for Departmental officers, including those assigned to the ABF," Mr Dutton said.
"These requirements will ensure officers exercising the significant powers entrusted to them will operate with the highest standards of integrity and professionalism.”
The ABF is due to commence operation on 1 July 2015.