The 2015 Budget is part of the Commonwealth Government’s plan to build a strong, safe and prosperous future for all Australians.
Within the Attorney-General’s portfolio, the most important measures give further strength to the Abbott Government’s determination to keep Australians safe from the threat of terrorism.
Further measures to keep Australia safe include:
Enhancing the investigative capabilities of law enforcement and security agencies
The Government will provide $131.3 million over three years to help the telecommunications industry meet their initial capital costs of retaining a limited set of metadata for a period of two years. This is a substantial contribution that will reduce the cost burden on Australian telecommunication businesses while substantially improving the availability of data to assist law enforcement and security agencies in investigations.
Telecommunications data plays a key role in almost every national security and serious criminal investigation, including murder, sexual assault, child exploitation and kidnapping investigations. It is also central to almost every organised crime, counter-espionage, cyber-security and counter-terrorism investigation.
The data retention legislation, passed by the Australian Parliament in March, gives law enforcement and security agencies certainty on the data available for their investigations while introducing new safeguards and reducing the number of agencies that can access the data.
Countering violent extremism
The Government has tripled investment in Countering Violent Extremism programmes – from around$3 million per annum to more than $40 million over four years.
As announced on 19 February, the Government is developing new measures to challenge terrorist propaganda online through an investment of more than $21 million over four years.
Every day ISIL and its supporters create upwards of 100,000 pieces of online propaganda on one social media platform alone.
This new commitment comprises a multifaceted effort to understand, limit access to and undermine the appeal of extremist propaganda. This work, which includes working with communities, industry and international partners, will help counter the significant threat to young Australians from insidious terrorist recruitment propaganda that is spread through social media.
This important initiative is just one element of the Government’s broader effort to counter violent extremism, pursued through the ongoing work of a range of government agencies at the Commonwealth and state levels, and complementary new government commitments.
Access to Justice
The Australian Government will invest $1.3 billion over five years for the new National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services
The new Agreement will improve planning, coordination and delivery of services at the local level, to disadvantaged Australians in areas such as family law.
Indigenous legal assistance providers will continue to be funded directly by the Commonwealth.
On 26 March 2015, the Government announced the restoration of $25.5 million over two years to provide certainty to the sector.
$12 million for the Community Legal Services Programme;
$11.5 million for the Indigenous Legal Assistance Programme; and
$2 million for the Expensive Commonwealth Criminal Cases Fund.
Funding of $5.8 million over four years will continue to support the Native Title Respondents Scheme. The scheme, which provides assistance to respondents to native title claims, will ensure that native title claims are resolved in an efficient and equitable manner for all parties.
Ensuring the sustainability of Courts
An additional $22.5 million over four years will be provided to the Federal Court, the Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court to strengthen their financial positions and enhance their capacity to provide services.
The other measures essential to ensuring the courts’ sustainability and meeting the Government’s election commitment of streamlining family court processes include:
Merger of back-office functions of the three courts (to commence 1 July 2016);
Critical maintenance works for court buildings; and
Changes to court fees (to commence 1 July 2015).
Further investment in the Arts
Once again, the interests of Australia’s cultural sector have been protected and advanced by the 2015-16 Budget.
At the centre of the measures to support the arts sector is the investment of $104.8 million over four years to establish a National Programme for Excellence in the Arts to support endowments, international touring and strategic projects, with an emphasis on attracting private sector support.
The National Programme for Excellence in the Arts will allow for a truly national approach to arts funding and will deliver on a number of Government priorities including national access to high quality arts and cultural experiences.
Arts funding has until now been limited almost exclusively to projects favoured by the Australia Council. The National Programme for Excellence in the Arts will make funding available to a wider range of arts companies and arts practitioners, while at the same time respecting the preferences and tastes of Australia’s audiences.
Accordingly, the Visions of Australia and Festivals Australia programmes will return to the Ministry for the Arts after being transferred to Australia Council by the previous government. The Major Festivals Initiative will also be transferred with support for this programme to be doubled to $1.5 million.
Creative Partnerships Australia will receive $5.2 million over three years starting in 2015-16 to foster private sector support for the arts.
Funds for these programmes will be transferred to the Ministry for the Arts from the Australia Council, ensuring that government support is available for a broader range of arts and cultural activities.
The Australia Council will continue to be the principal arts funding body, providing funding to artists and arts organisations of approximately $185 million per annum.
There will be no reduction in the Australia Council’s funding to the 28 major performing arts companies as a result of this initiative.