Australian Border Force

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Australian Border Force
Australian Border Force.png
Logo of Australian Border Force
Agency overview
Formed 1 July 2015; 2 years ago (2015-07-01)
Preceding agencies
Employees 5,800[1]
Annual budget A$116 million (2016)
Legal personality Governmental: Government agency
Jurisdictional structure
Federal agency AU
General nature
Operational structure
Headquarters Belconnen ACT 2617
Elected officer responsible Peter Dutton, Minister for Immigration and Border Protection
Agency executive Roman Quaedvlieg, Commissioner
Parent agency Department of Immigration and Border Protection
Child agency Australian Customs and Border Protection Service

The Australian Border Force (ABF), is a part of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, responsible for offshore and onshore border control enforcement, investigations, compliance and detention operations in Australia. The Force was established on 1 July 2015 merging the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service with the immigration detention and compliance functions of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.

The ABF is a law enforcement agency operating under the Australian Border Force Act 2015 with broadened legislative powers including the introduction of sworn officers.[2] A new uniform was introduced and following the transition there was increase in the number of officers authorised to carry firearms.[3][4] As of 2016, approximately 15% of the Force is firearms trained which will increase by 2020 to less than 25%.[1]

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison MP announced the establishment of the Force on 9 May 2014 to be based on a hybrid of the United Kingdom Border Force model.[5][6][7]


The National Commission of Audit recommended the merger in February 2014.[7] The Australian Border Force Bill 2015 was introduced on 25 February 2015 and passed on 14 May 2015.


The ABF is the operational arm of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection. Its mission is to protect Australia's border and manage the movement of people and goods across it. The ABF contributes to three national outcomes including strong national security, a strong economy and a prosperous and cohesive society. The ABF has approximately 5800 employees, with about 1000 in corporate or close operational support roles.[1]

To achieve its mission the ABF structures itself into two Groups – the Operations Group and the Support Group.

The Operations Group has responsibilities for all operational activity relating to the management of travellers, goods and cargo throughout the border continuum. The Operations Group houses the enforcement functions of the ABF, including:

  • Facilitating the lawful passage of people and goods
  • Investigations, compliance and enforcement in relation to prohibited goods and immigration malpractice; and
  • Onshore detention, removals and support to regional processing arrangements.

The Maritime Border Command a multi agency task force with the Australian Defence Force sits within the Operations Group.[8][9]

The Support Group has responsibility for providing planning, support and specialist services to ensure operational continuity across the border continuum and the operational management responsibility for detention services management including health, detention estate management, and regional processing and settlement.[10]

From September 2014, Counter Terrorism Units (CTU) were operating in all major international airports, who from December 2014 were granted authority to carry firearms in airports, to intercept travellers who are departing to join terrorist organisations in conflict zones such as Islamic State and to intercept returning members of terrorist organisations such as fighters.[11]

Ranks and insignia

The Australian Border Force has its own rank structure. Uniformed Australian Border Force officers have their rank displayed on their shoulder epaulettes, attached to shirts, jumpers or jacket. The rank and epaulette styling is in line with many other border agencies and shares close similarities with its United Kingdom counterpart, the Border Force.

The ABF rank insignia's have four components placed against an ink navy coloured field:

ABF Front line Officer ranks and insignia

(commonly seen at Airports, Seaports, Border Patrol, Enforcement & Maritime Ops, Air Cargo, Container Examination Facility, Postal Exams, Detector Dog Unit.)

Rank Assistant Border Force Officer (level 1) Assistant Border Force Officer (level 2) Border Force Officer Leading Border Force Officer Senior Border Force Officer Border Force Supervisor
Australian Public Service (APS) level APS 1 APS 2 APS 3 APS 4 APS 5 APS 6
Assis BFO 1.jpg
Assis BFO 2.jpg
Border Force Officer.jpg
ABF Executive level ranks and insignia
Rank Border Force Inspector Border Force Superintendent Commander

(Regional Commander)

Assistant Commissioner

of the ABF

Deputy Commissioner

of the ABF

Commissioner of the ABF
Australian Public Service (APS) level EL 1 EL 2 SES 1 SES 2 SES 3 Department Head/CEO
Assis Commissioner.jpg
Depu Commissioner.jpg


A contracted Surveillance Australia Dash 8 aircraft (Coast Guard).

Prior to the standing up of the Australian Border Force, the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service had Officers in certain operational instances where they were armed with Personal Defensive Equipment (PDE). These Officers were generally those that worked in Enforcement Operations, Investigations, and the Marine Unit.[3] Since 1 July 2015, with the creation of the Australian Border Force came a change direction and environment. The ABF has geared itself more to a law enforcement aspect to help adapt itself with the increasing threat of terrorism, on both a global and local standpoint, people smuggling, and highly organised criminal syndicates and organisations. As a result, the ABF has begun to arm trained officers to carry firearms and PDE at all major Australian international airports.

ABF Officers are supplied with current generation Glock 17 9mm semi-automatic pistol. ASP 21 inch telescopic baton, SAF-LOK MK5 hinged handcuffs, Oleoresin Capsicum (OC) Spray.[4]

The Marine Unit is a Coast Guard which operates alongside the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) in the Maritime Border Command. The Marine Unit officers are equipped with the Glock 17 pistol and Remington Model 870 shotgun.[4] The Marine Unit vessels are equipped similar to RAN vessels with the M2 Browning 12.7mm machine gun that is on loan from the Australian Defence Force.[4]

The ABF also has an aviation Coast Guard component operating a fleet of ten privately contracted Dash 8 aircraft which operate alongside the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) in the Maritime Board Command.[9][12]

Allegations of Corruption and Misconduct

  • [2017] ABF’s most senior officer - commissioner Roman Quaedvlieg - is suspended pending an investigation into his conduct by the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity (ACLEI) [13]
  • [2017] ABF assistant commissioner Peter Docwra resigns during an investigation into his conduct[14]
  • [2017] A reporter from The Guardian newspaper alledged that ABF was carrying out illegal searches at airports and at people’s homes[15]
  • [2015] A Border Force officer confiscates a passenger’s laptop and mobile phone at Sydney airport, demands the passcodes, then sends text messages without the passenger’s knowledge or consent[16]

Passenger profiling and watchlists

The Australian Border Force uses a "big data" analysis ecosystem to monitor people and cargo entering and leaving Australia. This includes the use of machine learning capabilities across a range of analytical platforms that draw together multiple data sources to provide insights.

The Central Movement Alert List (CMAL) is an electronic watch list, containing information about individuals who pose either an immigration or national security concern to the Australian Government as well as information on lost, stolen or fraudulent travel documents. CMAL comprises two databases, the Person Alert List (PAL) and the Document Alert List (DAL). The PAL database stores the biographical details of identities of concern and DAL is a list of lost, fraudulent or stolen travel documents. PAL records are categorised according to the reason for listing the identity—the alert reason code (ARC). There are 19 ARCs with each being categorised as high, medium or low risk.

Australian Members of Parliament have expressed concerns about the lack of systematic control over data input and maintenance of the Alert List, stating that Australian citizens and visitors may suffer inconvenience or harassment due to misinformation or incorrect information being entered into the system.[17]

The Australian Border Force receives Passenger Name Record data from airlines operating into and out of Australia. PNR data is information about passengers that is held by airlines on their computer reservation system. PNR data includes approximately 106 different fields such as passenger name(s), sex, passport number, nationality, travel companions, frequent flyer Information, date and place of ticket issue, contact phone numbers, credit card number and expiry date, number of bags, seat allocation, and the passenger's full itinerary.[18]

See also


  1. ^ a b c "ABF 2020" (PDF). Department of Immigration and Border Protection. Australian Border Force. Retrieved 6 December 2016. 
  2. ^ "Australian Border Force Act 2015". Austlii. 
  3. ^ a b "Carriage of Operational Equipment by Officers of the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service – Fact" (PDF). Department of Immigration and Border Protection. Australian Customs and Border Protection. 12 March 2010. Retrieved 6 December 2016. 
  4. ^ a b c d "Immigration and Border Protection Portfolio – Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee". Parliament of Australia. Senate – Estimates. 19 October 2015. Retrieved 6 December 2016. 
  5. ^ Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Scott Morrison (9 May 2014). "A new force protecting Australia's borders – Address to the Lowy Institute for International Policy". Parliament of Australia. Retrieved 6 December 2016. 
  6. ^ Bourke, Latika (9 May 2014). "Immigration Minister Scott Morrison announces new Australian Border Force". ABC News. Archived from the original on 4 April 2015. Retrieved 1 July 2015. 
  7. ^ a b Barker, Cat (30 May 2014). "Australian Border Force". Research Paper Series, 2013–14. Parliamentary Library. Budget Review 2014–15: 98–99. Retrieved 6 December 2016. 
  8. ^ "Maritime Border Command – Australian Border Force". Department of Immigration and Border Protection. Retrieved 7 December 2016. 
  9. ^ a b "Department of Immigration and Border Protection – Annual Report 2015-16" (PDF). Department of Immigration and Border Protection. Retrieved 7 December 2016. 
  10. ^ "Australian Border Force: Who we are". Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection. Retrieved 30 May 2016. 
  11. ^ Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton (20 November 2015). "Rise in counter-terror unit interventions" (Press release). Retrieved 6 December 2016. 
  12. ^ Mugg, Hawkins & Coyne, James, Zoe & John (13 July 2016). "Australian border security and unmanned maritime vehicles" (PDF). Australian Strategic Policy Institute. Speicial Report: 11. Retrieved 7 December 2016. 
  13. ^ Knaus, Christopher (2017-07-03). "Australian Border Force chief Roman Quaedvlieg on leave amid investigation". The Guardian. Retrieved 2017-11-25. 
  14. ^ Buckingham-Jones, Sam (2017-07-14). "Australian Border Force assistant commissioner quits over relationship claims". The Australian. Retrieved 2017-11-25. 
  15. ^ Knaus, Christopher (2017-07-03). "Australian Border Force chief Roman Quaedvlieg on leave amid investigation". The Guardian. Retrieved 2017-11-25. 
  16. ^ O'Brien, Natalie (2015-08-02). "Customs officer confiscates passenger's phone and then uses it to secretly text". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2017-11-25. 
  17. ^ House of Representatives Committee Audit Report 35 2008–2009.
  18. ^ Australian Government Office of the Australian Information Commissioner. Passenger Name Records: Administrative Arrangements. 2015.


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