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Purpose of the AFP

The AFP purpose in the 2019–20 Corporate Plan is:

‘As Australia’s national policing agency, we protect Australians and Australia’s interests.’

During 2019–20 the AFP pursued this purpose through two Portfolio Budget Statements (PBS) outcomes (see The AFP’s role and purpose).

Outcome 1 addresses criminal security threats to Australian economic and social interests and accounts for the majority of budgeted expenditure (see Figure 3.1). There are two programs under Outcome 1: 1.1 Federal Policing and National Security; and 1.2 International Police Assistance. Program 1.1 delivers policing services across a broad remit. Program 1.2 contributes to vital international engagement and intelligence exchange, offshore policing and assistance; it reflects the AFP’s role as Australia’s international police representative. Our level of engagement and priorities under Program 1.2 vary depending on offshore events and Australian foreign policy. Delivery of both programs is monitored and assessed through the performance criteria in Table 3.3 Performance criteria in the 2019–20 PBS (Portfolio Additional Estimates Statement (PAES) 2019–20). Figure 3.2 illustrates an example of how the performance criteria relate to operational activity and criminal methods in use for drug operations. It highlights the various data points and stages of operational significance that the AFP targets and reports on in its performance framework for this crime. It shows the links between AFP operational practice, strategy and priorities with aspects of the performance framework.

Under Outcome 2 the AFP delivers policing services in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) through a service agreement with the ACT Government (see Figure 3.1). ACT Policing reports on the agreement to the ACT Government (see the ACT Policing annual reports at www.police.act.gov.au/about-us/publications). This year the annual performance statement includes more detail on ACT Policing’s overall performance through inclusion of ACT Policing prevention and response case studies. Performance criteria for Outcome 2 will be formalised in the 2020–21 PBS and the AFP Corporate Plan 2020–21.

Figure 3.1 Overview of AFP’s outcomes and programs for 2019–20 Diagram showing the AFP's vision, mission, outcomes and programs. The AFP vision is policing for a safer Australia. The AFP mission is "as Australia's national policing agency, we protect Australians and Australia's interests". Outcome 1 relates to reduced criminal and security threats to Australia's collective economic and societal interests through cooperative policing services. Under Outcome 1 there are two programs. Program 1.1 which is federal policing and national security. The second program is Program 1.2 which is international police assistance. Outcome 2 relates to a safe and secure environment through policing activities on behalf of the Australian Capital Territory Government. Under Outcome 2 there is one program, Program 2.1 which relates to ACT community policing. Budget and staffing figures are provided for Outcome 1 and 2, as well as the two programs under Outcome 1.

The AFP delivers Outcomes 1 and 2 under its establishment act, the Australian Federal Police Act 1979 (Cth), as well as a diverse range of other legislation. The legislation that relates to our work contains many offence provisions, procedures and evidentiary standards. For example, the Commonwealth Criminal Code alone has more than 500 offences, each outlining particulars of proof.

The Acts that operationalise and structure the AFP’s responsibilities, roles and discretionary powers differ depending on whether the AFP is engaging in national security, protection, criminal investigation, witness protection or community policing activities.

The specific investigative, policing and protection functions within these domains are in turn shaped by everyday concerns such as the victim’s or offender’s age, mental health and ability to continue offending or being victimised. Any AFP response must address these but also the community’s acceptance of and confidence in the service and best practice in treating crimes.

To prioritise and design its response to these diverse requirements for engagement and activity, the AFP uses a prioritisation model and steering documents such as the Ministerial Directions. We used these to identify a number of operational priorities for 2019–20 (see ).

The AFP seeks to deliver maximum policing impact in these priorities while balancing investment in the health and longevity of the agency, promoting cultural and organisational health and addressing agency capability (see AFP Corporate Plan 201920, pages 7 and 24). To this end, in 2019–20 the AFP invested in several strategic initiatives, with progress made on all (Activities to enhance strategic capabilities).

Table 3.1 Operational priorities and associated performance criteria

Priority from Corporate Plan 2019–20 (page 9)

Performance criteria

Countering terrorism

Enforcement and prevention case studies; disruption count and case studies

Disrupting criminal networks

Disruption count and case studies

Leading national responses to human exploitation

Enforcement and prevention case studies; disruption count and case studies

Combating economic and serious crimes

As above

Countering cybercrime

As above

Protection of assets, persons and aviation

Avoidable incidents and response times

Policing communities

ACT Policing and Mission evaluations

Partnerships and collaboration are central to AFP operations. Domestic and offshore law enforcement agencies, Commonwealth regulatory agencies and, increasingly, industry, academia and non-government organisations work with the AFP to create and deliver tailored, targeted solutions to criminal and security threats. By developing new and sometimes novel alliances, the AFP is able to have maximum operational impact in its activities.

Within these partnerships the AFP can lead, coordinate, represent or support, taking on varying roles depending on organisational, legal and operational imperatives. Sometimes the AFP’s response to a crime or policing activity will involve a mixture of these roles, so staff need to be flexible and equipped to engage in diverse and rapidly evolving situations.

The AFP’s key partners include agencies who jointly deliver whole-of-government policies (PBS‑linked programs) countering crime and protecting national security or Australian interests from criminal and other threats (see Table 3.2).

In 2019–20, the National Operations and State Services Centre was established to enhance state/territory liaison and offshore engagement.

Table 3.2 PBS linked program partners

Linked PBS government programs

AFP engagement

Australian Financial Security Authority (AFSA)

Program 1.1: Personal Insolvency and Trustee Services

AFSA’s data has been used to support:

  • the case for legislative reform
  • the AFP’s input into reviews of Australia’s compliance with proceeds of crime aspects of international treaties (including the Financial Action Taskforce Mutual Evaluation Review)
  • estimates of the value of property to be forfeited under section 56 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (Cth)

Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO)

Program 1.1: Security Intelligence

  • Joint counter-terrorism operations use ASIO intelligence

Australian Taxation Office (ATO)

Program 1.1: Australian Taxation Office

  • Joint investigations by ATO and AFP
  • Operational cooperation and intelligence exchange
  • AFP membership of the Serious Financial Crimes Taskforce chaired by ATO

Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC)

Program 1.1: AUSTRAC

  • Intelligence exchange

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT)

Program 1.1: Foreign Affairs and Trade Operations

Program 1.2: Official Development Assistance

Program 2.1: Consular Services

  • AFP international engagement is strongly influenced by DFAT programs

Department of Home Affairs

Program 1.1: Border Enforcement

Program 1.5: Regional Cooperation

Program 1.7: National Security and Criminal Justice

Program 1.9: Counter Terrorism

  • AFP executive and members are involved in a range of committees and forums led by the Department of Home Affairs—from Senior Officer Group, involving all state/territory police commissioners, to crime-specific groups covering topics like firearm registration and imports
  • AFP works cooperatively with Australian Border Force on a range of tasks and intelligence exchange, especially illegal importations at the border (airports, ports)

Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

Program 1.1: Prime Minister and Cabinet

  • AFP is consulted on cabinet submissions by the Department of Home Affairs

Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP)

Program 1.1: An independent service to prosecute alleged offences against the criminal law of the Commonwealth

  • Most AFP criminal cases are prosecuted by the CDPP

Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC)

Program 1.1: Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission

  • AFP Commissioner chairs the ACIC Board
  • AFP members access various ACIC databases and reports as part of their duties—intelligence exchange
  • Joint operations
  • Fusion centres—secondments

Partnerships with state, territory and offshore law enforcement agencies also feature in operational taskforces, as some crimes require a whole‑of‑government, holistic response, and multi-agency responses ensure that local operational action ties into and is influenced by larger national policy goals. The AFP has involvement in multi‑agency taskforces such as Operation Sovereign Borders (people smuggling); the Serious Financial Crimes Taskforce, led by the ATO and the National Disability Insurance Agency Taskforce; and others focused on drugs, gangs, firearms and serious and organised crime. These typically involve state police, Commonwealth agencies and/or foreign law enforcement. The AFP also engages in country-specific policing taskforces like Taskforce Blaze (China), Taskforce Storm (Cambodia) and Strike Force Dragon (Thailand).

Drawing on partnerships and legal arrangements, the AFP uses a mixture of operational strategies to deliver prevention, disruption, enforcement and response outcomes1. Often during the course of an investigation or activity more than one of these strategies are used.


  1. Definitions of these concepts are available at www.afp.gov.au