The Australian national security policymaking process is a multi agency whole of government function that examines a broad range of security issues ranging from risks, threats, vulnerabilities and opportunities that have implications on Australia's national security interests. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is one of the key portfolios in the national security policymaking. As the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, your specific responsibilities in the process will include anticipating relevant policy development, advancing Australia interests abroad, sustaining processes that ensure that policy developments are detected early and responded to competently while ensuring that policy outcomes do not contradict the foreign policy being pursued by the government. The national security policymaking process examines these factors and weighs policy options against competing priorities and determines the best means and ways of managing through well-established structures and procedures. The Australian process is a top-down approach with policy issues instigated from both government and outside government. The concept of national security has moved from the traditional approach that was focusing on state survival and a preserve of the government, to the current situation where it encompasses both state and non-state actors and deals with increased human security issues that include health pandemics, refugees, transnational crimes, cyber security, environmental degradation, climate change, natural disasters, poverty, financial crises and food security. The brief will start with an outline of the current process including structures and actors. This will be followed by identification of areas and issues that may require be changes or amending. The final part of the brief will contain proposals on how to improve the policymaking process.
Current Structure and Process
The current structure of Australia’s national security policy-making body comprises a number of elements. Key among these is the National Security Committee of Cabinet and Secretaries Committee on National Security (SCNS). Others that play a role at a lower level includes the National Counter-Terrorism Committee (NCTC), Strategic Policy Coordination Group (SPCG) and the National Security Bureaucracy). But the focus of this brief Mr Minister will be on the key bodies of NSCC and SCNS.
NATIONAL SECURITY COMMITTEE ON CABINET (NSCC)
This is an executive arm of government generating national security policies. It is a standing sub-committee of cabinet and the peak on political decision-making body in Australian government on security policy matters. It is chaired by the Prime Minister. Other members includes the Deputy Prime Minister, Treasurer, and Ministers for Defence, Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Attorney General. The Justice Minister attends the meetings regularly while other ministers only participate if matters touching on their dockets are being discussed. The NSCC operates differently from other committees of Cabinet in that it has full participation of non-cabinet members. This includes the Secretaries from the Prime Minister and Cabinet Office, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Defence, The Chief of Defence Forces, Director General Office of National Assessment, Director General Australia Security Intelligence Organization and Australian Federal Police Commissioner. The committee has a wide mandate covering from defence to foreign affairs matters, to dealing with procurement in the department of defence and has at times acted as a crisis decision-making body. The committee sittings are ad-hoc in nature and are dictated by agenda issues that are to be discussed. NSCC adopts a collaborative leadership model where trust between members exists. This allows security issues to be discussed and decisions made without being referred to a full cabinet meeting. Secretaries Committee on National Security (SCNC)
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