Federal Budget 2024: Border operations bolstered by $570m investment in boats, planes for surveillance

Dylan Caporn
The Nightly
2 Min Read
Border Force will get $50m to tackle illegal fishers in Australia’s waters, after a surge in the number of boats caught last year. 
Border Force will get $50m to tackle illegal fishers in Australia’s waters, after a surge in the number of boats caught last year.  Credit: Dan Peled/AAP

Australia’s border protection operations have been bolstered with half a billion dollars in additional investment, after coming under fire amid an influx of attempted boat arrivals.

Faced with a growing number of boats attempting to land on Australian shores, the Government will make a “significant” investment of almost $570 million in border security, including boats, planes and autonomous vehicles for Operation Sovereign Borders

Next financial year, Labor will spend $71.2m to increase the Australian Border Force’s surveillance capabilities.

Sign up to The Nightly's newsletters.

Get the first look at the digital newspaper, curated daily stories and breaking headlines delivered to your inbox.

Email Us
By continuing you agree to our Terms and Privacy Policy.

On top of that, Border Force will get $50m to tackle illegal fishers in Australia’s waters, after a surge in the number of boats caught last year.

But despite concerns from local communities about the exposure of Australia’s north-west coast, there was no specific Budget announcement to cover surveillance off Western Australia.

The Government has faced growing pressure about the border operations, with three different groups of asylum seekers intercepted in Australian waters in less than a week.

A total of 33 asylum seekers were found on Christmas Island last Thursday after their boat was destroyed in bad weather and Border Force intercepted four Vietnamese men off the Broome coast the next day.

These incidents came just days after a group of Rwandans who had arrived on the Torres Strait island of Saibai were returned to Papua New Guinea.

The arrival of multiple groups of asylum seekers to Australia’s remote north-west since last year has drawn questions over the resourcing allocated to surveilling the coastline, with shadow home affairs minister James Paterson saying the operations were in a “dire state”.

ABF Commissioner Michael Outram told a Senate Estimates hearing last year the agency was in the midst of developing a strategy to extend surveillance, blaming a decrease in coastal flying hours on difficulties in recruiting pilots.

“With an ageing fleet and an aerial surveillance contract coming to the end of life in 2027, clearly we need a plan going forward, and that’s being worked on as we speak,” Mr Outram said.

“In relation to the sea patrol days, it is a combination of factors relating to the age of the fleet, deep-level maintenance and blowouts in timeframes to do deep-level maintenance.

“We’re on a campaign to continue to recruit and backfill gaps … in relation to the fleet.”

In a statement, Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil and Immigration Minister Andrew Giles said the funding meant the Albanese Government was delivering $1.31 billion more than the previous government had promised for border protection.

The Government will also fund improved security at Western Australia’s Yongah Hill Immigration Detention Centre.

It follows a scathing assessment in recent weeks of the centre’s operations by the Australian Human Rights Commissioner Lorraine Finlay.

Latest Edition

The front page of The Nightly for 21-05-2024

Latest Edition

Edition Edition 21 May 202421 May 2024

The PM, the terrorist and the A-list barrister demanding war crimes charges.