World focus with police boost

Mark Dodd | May 13, 2008

AUSTRALIAN Federal Police numbers will be boosted by an extra 500 officers over the next five years, with international operations emerging as a major budget priority for the Rudd Government.

Eight additional AFP officers will soon be sent to Afghanistan to help in a reinvigorated NATO-led coalition effort to contain a booming opium economy. They will be joining four colleagues already deployed under a $47million program over two years to strengthen efforts to bring stability and a measure of law and order to the country.

"The AFP has been providing expertise in counter-narcotics and police capacity development in Afghanistan since October last year," Home Affairs Minister Bob Debus said yesterday. "The additional members will provide high-level advice to the National Police of Afghanistan and act in advisory roles with the counter-narcotics police of Afghanistan. More than 90 per cent of the world's opium is cultivated in Afghanistan and, according to the UN, poppy production continues to increase."

The extra 500 AFP officers fulfil a key Labor election promise to increase the agency's capacity to help tackle transnational crime and terrorism -- a package of measures costed at $192million. It follows a $20million package over four years designed to address AFP recruitment and retention announced earlier by the federal Government. It is expected the additional police resources will be phased in over five years, adding a mix of base-level recruits and experienced specialists.

The AFP receives $53.7million over two years to help develop East Timor's national police force, which is riven by ethnic divisions and is struggling with the legacy of a botched UN training regime involving a host of countries with a range of different standards and culture. Eighty AFP specialist trainers will be deployed in East Timor under a program that aims to help train an estimated 2000 local police to be located outside the capital Dili.

"Australia was quick to respond to security issues in East Timor following the attempted assassinations of the President of East Timor, Jose Ramos Horta, and Prime Minister Gusmao, including the deployment of AFP personnel," Mr Debus said. "The AFP continues to play a vital role in the UN mission in East Timor and this will provide a further opportunity for the AFP to contribute to the development of policing in East Timor."

The Australian Government's support for policing in the Pacific region was also boosted by the announcement yesterday of an $80million program. With Australia's main 550-strong combat force pulling out of Iraq, the focus is now on efforts to help strengthen that country's police force. The 2008-09 budget includes a $13.7million plan to help train 30 Iraqi police officers each year in Sydney over the next three years and a further 51 to undertake specialist forensic training.

"The program will give Iraqi police access to the specialist expertise of the AFP's forensic scientists and will focuson building a crime scene analysis system for the Iraqi Police Service," Mr Debus said.

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