Immigration and Border Protection Minister Scott Morrison has officially opened the National Border Targeting Centre (NBTC) which brings together nine government agencies to focus on high-risk individuals and cargo in conjunction with the five-eyes intelligence partners.
The Canberra-based centre, which opened on July 3, collaborates with similar targeting centres in the United States, Canada, Britain and New Zealand and aims to improve understanding of criminal syndicates with international links.
Mr Morrison said the centre would become a key component of the Strategic Border Command and was a “cornerstone of border protection reforms within the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service”.
“It will support agencies to maintain vigilance at the border to manage the exponential growth in trade and travel; handle more complex cargo supply chains and passenger travel routes,” he said.
The centre will use data and “sophisticated analytical tools” from various agencies to identify high-risk passengers and cargo, which will then inform any subsequent operations.
“The NBTC will provide a national, holistic approach to combat serious and organised crime which is responsible for smuggling illegal drugs, guns, bio-security, national security and immigrations risks through cargo and traveller arrival points,” Mr Morrison said.
He said the centre would help Australia’s border, law enforcement, intelligence, and regulatory agencies to maintain vigilance at the border, manage the growth of travel and trade, and handle more complex supply chains and passenger routes.
Mr Morrison said the increased co-operation between agencies would increase the capacity of law enforcement bodies to monitor both legal and illegal activities on Australia's borders.
“Eighty-five per cent of all illegal firearm detections at the border are the result of intelligence developed by Australian and international security and law enforcement agencies,” he said.
“The NBTC will be the thread that pulls agencies’ data together providing agencies with a national operational picture showing all the moving parts, both legal and illegal activity, at the border.”
The centre, which was announced by former Minister for Home Affairs Jason Clare in March 2013, will also examine risks posed by an increasing number of travellers and cargo transportation.
“Around 30 million passengers passed through our international airports in [the] last year. That is expected to increase to 40 million by 2020,” Mr Clare said last year.
“Between now and 2020, sea container arrivals are expected to increase from around 2.2 million to more than 5 million. Air cargo consignments will increase from around 11 million to about 22 million.”
Mr Morrison said the Coalition had invested a further $256.6 million on intelligence and systems to support the centre's connectivity and security.
“Without this broader investment the $30 million provided to set up the NBTC would have made it little more than a shell operation,” he said.
“This funding is part of the more than $700 million being invested back into border protection through the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service and the establishment of the Australian Border Force, over the next six years, reversing the $700 million cuts to border protection under the previous government.”