Turf Warfare Destroys Government Efficiency
Turf warfare is one of the most destructive and debilitating activities in any enterprise, and government is no exception. The consequences of this behavior can be dire and harm the national interest. When government ministerial portfolios and departments are allocated and responsibilities distributed, posturing, elbowing, and chest-puffing often occur as players try to increase their sphere of influence. This can lead to ministers claiming “victory” and others feeling like “losers.”
The recent transfer of certain areas of responsibility from the Home Affairs Department to the Attorney-General’s Department, such as the Australian Federal Police (AFP), has raised some questions. Previously, the AFP had been in the same department as the Australian Security Intelligence Office (ASIO), but now they are separated. This can lead to counter-productive turf warfare, as each agency advocates for separate funding in different portfolios. This can create creative tensions or outright hostility, which is not conducive to cohesive mission-focused law enforcement.
The change was seen as a win for the new Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, who also doubles as cabinet secretary, while the Home Affairs Minister Claire O’Neil was left with the consolation prize of the National Recovery and Resilience Agency, which includes climate change issues. During his previous term as attorney-general, Dreyfus did not have any security legislation passed by the Parliament.
Former Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said, “I just worry going back into this siloed arrangement, that Anthony Albanese might be making Mark Dreyfus happy, but it is going to make us less safe as a country.”
When the Home Affairs portfolio was established in 2017, it brought together Australia’s immigration, border protection, law enforcement, and domestic security agencies. This was modeled after similar arrangements in the United States and United Kingdom. However, Australia’s Home Affairs portfolio differed in that oversight agencies were allocated to the Attorney-General’s portfolio. Keeping the operational bodies under one roof is beneficial in terms of morale, cost, and job opportunities.
Only time will tell if the portfolio arrangements are appropriate and if they lead to optimal results. If not, maintaining the current allocations could leave the country’s national security hamstrung.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.