Australian State’s War on Crime Sees Spending Triple That of Other States

By Henry Jom
Henry Jom
Henry Jom
November 15, 2021 Updated: November 15, 2021

Victoria Police have implemented cost-cutting measures to reduce its spending following a budget blowout on crime fighting operations that has seen the state spend as much as New South Wales (NSW)on law and order enforcement, despite being one-third in geographical size.

According to The Age, spending on police courts and prisons grew at double or triple the rate of any other Australian state and territory over the past decade, and there are concerns that Victoria Police may no longer be financially sustainable.

The Age reported that a big part of Victoria Police’s budget was spent on new police stations and high-tech gear, including military-style assault rifles, anti-riot equipment, armoured personnel carriers, and a new fleet of aircraft.

“We need an effective police force, but successive governments have prioritised police and prison spending over spending on the things that work to address the root causes of crime, like education, housing, mental health and disability support, drug and alcohol services,” Hugh de Kretser, executive director of the Human Rights Law Centre told The Age.

Since 2017, hundreds of millions of dollars have been given to the force as emergency top-ups despite the state government providing annual budget increases.

Further, Victoria Police needed a rescue package of $175 million (US$128.5 million) to fund its operations—a separate package from the $111 million (US$81 million) the state government provided for the COVID-19 response.

The Andrews government—which came to power in 2014—has also been accused of allegedly prioritising law enforcement over the funding for health and education since 2013.

In an email to The Epoch Times, a spokesperson for Victoria Police confirmed that the force’s budget for 2021-22 is around $3,703 million(US$2,720 million)—which according to the Victoria Police Capability Plan 2016-2025 (pdf), is $200 million (US$146 million) more than the previous year with over 70 percent of the budget allocated to employee salaries and entitlements.

Currently, Victoria Police has 22,000 personnel and $4 billion (US$2.9 billion) worth of government funding, making Victoria Police the largest law enforcement agency in the country.

“Victoria Police has implemented a number of initiatives aimed at reducing its spend while maintaining frontline operations for the safety of the community,” the spokesperson told The Epoch Times.

The spokesperson said key cuts to Victoria Police were communicated to staff by Chief Commissioner Shane Patton in July, including that there would be a temporary freeze on the recruitment of Victorian Public Service employees.

However, forensic officers and police custody officers are exempt from the freeze.

“Other measures being introduced include immediate steps to reduce our discretionary spend on goods and services that are not directly related to frontline policing operations,” the spokesperson said.

“We believe these are prudent, necessary steps that will allow Victoria Police to prioritise spending on policing services that keep people safe while also contributing towards the economic recovery of our state following last year’s bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic response.”

In a recent report, Victoria’s Auditor-General wrote that the Department of Treasury and Finance was having “ongoing discussions with Victoria Police on its financial sustainability,” reported The Age.

Financial records obtained by The Australian show that in 2020-21 alone, Victoria Police spent $31 million (US$22.7 million) on legal advice as part of a $200 million bill paid to consultants and contractors.

The news of the budgetary blowout comes amid reports by The Age that Victoria Police detectives were allegedly directed by high-ranking officials to not arrest and prosecute 16 of Daniel Andrews government ministers over the “Red Shirts” scandal where the Labor government is accused of misusing taxpayer funds to pay campaign staff for the 2014 election campaign.

 

The Epoch Times incorrectly stated the accusations that the Victorian Labor Party misused taxpayer funds to pay campaign staff was from 2019. This was incorrect the allegations date back to 2014. The Epoch Times apologises for the error. 

Henry Jom