Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has accused Labor of “colluding with the ABC on Question Time tactics” after he was forced to defend the allocation of federal police resources to guard his Point Piper mansion.
Earlier in a Senate estimates hearing on Tuesday, AFP Commissioner Mark Colvin revealed a $184.36 million funding shortfall over the next four years would affect fraud, drug, organised crime and child exploitation operations.
Hours later, in the middle of a heated Question Time, the ABC published a report based on an internal AFP document that claimed the federal force was unable to properly investigate 23 drug crimes because, in part, resources had been diverted to guard Mr Turnbull’s Sydney mansion.
The Prime Minister – who is routinely referred to as ‘Mr Harbourside Mansion’ by his critics – dismissed Labor’s attacks, saying the AFP had received an “unprecedented level” of investment – $321 million – in the May budget, the largest single funding boost for the AFP’s domestic policing capabilities in a decade.
“Every decision we’ve taken, every policy we have set out, every measure relating to the AFP is focused on ensuring they have the capacity to keep us safe and the skills and the technology to do so in these dangerous times,” Mr Turnbull told Parliament.
Labor Leader Bill Shorten had questioned whether the government had diminished the operational capacity of the AFP to investigate potential cocaine importation operations.
Under sustained questioning, Mr Turnbull said his government had “done everything” to make the country safe.
He fired back: “The chutzpah of the leader of the Opposition to stand up here and ask about national security.”
After Mr Turnbull asked him to add to his answer, Justice Minister Michael Keenan said it was “absolute nonsense” for the Opposition to claim the AFP’s budget had been cut by $184 million.
The AFP “has never been better supported,” Mr Keenan said.
The July AFP memo cited by the ABC purported to reveal resourcing shortages left the AFP unable to properly investigate a 1.6-tonne cocaine importation, leaving it to be handled offshore.
It meant the operations of an Australian-based crime group behind the import could not be fully explored.
The senior officer wrote the AFP transferred 102 drug importation cases of more than one kilogram to NSW Police.
Aside from guard duties for the Prime Minister’s residence, the AFP memo reportedly also blamed Project Rampart, a $40 million program to fortify security at the AFP’s capital city buildings.