Go to top of page

Capability review: Australian Customs and Border Protection Service


The 2010 report Ahead of the Game: Blueprint for the Reform of Australian Government Administration recommended that the Australian Public Service Commission undertake regular and systemic reviews to promote improved capability in key agencies and to assess the institutional capability of the service as a whole.

In 2011, the Australian Government began a full program of capability reviews of all departments and three major agencies.

On the occasion of this review, I would like to thank the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (the agency) for its professional and enthusiastic participation. All staff who participated in interviews and workshops were generous with their time and displayed great passion for the work of protecting Australia’s borders, in particular the newly appointed Chief Executive Officer, Michael Pezzullo, and his senior management team.

We recognise that the agency is about to embark on a significant change agenda as it transforms to a modern border agency able to confront the challenges of the border environment. These challenges are many and complex, including the processing of steadily increasing volumes of routine arrivals of passengers and goods for compliance and enforcement purposes, while facilitating the smooth flow of people and goods into and out of the country. The challenge of this increasing workload is further complicated by the tight fiscal environment and the added complexity of managing a significant additional workload occasioned by irregular maritime arrivals.

I believe this report is most timely, in that it provides the agency with an independent insight into its capabilities and a foundation on which to determine its capability development priorities in moving forward.

I would also like to thank Lieutenant General Mark Evans, AO DSC (Ret’d) the chair of the Senior Review Team, and the other senior members of the team, Ms Akiko Jackson, Ms Elizabeth Kelly and Dr Heather Smith. As with past reviews, the bringing together of such a high-calibre team has been of significant value to the review process and delivery of this report.


Stephen Sedgwick AO

Australian Public Service Commissioner


The operational environment the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (the agency) confronts in the ‘border space’ is continually evolving. New challenges bring added complexity to its operations. The agency is managing increased volumes of people and trade across Australia’s borders. Transnational crime and international terrorism have become increasingly sophisticated.

To counter these challenges, the traditional view of the border is evolving. Rather than a geographical line around the country, the border is now seen as having spatial depth in front of and behind the physical border itself. Agencies with border responsibilities need to be able to operate within a whole-of-government framework that provides security within the border space. Within this framework the agency has specific responsibilities related to border interventions, law enforcement, compliance, and facilitating travel and trade.

In addition to external pressures, internally the agency also has a confluence of issues that have provided further stimulus for change. Despite recent operational successes, parts of the agency have recently been the focus of serious investigations related to issues of integrity and misconduct. The agency has also come under increasing political and public scrutiny. The Minister for Home Affairs has identified a pressing need for the agency to reform and has established the Customs Reform Board to identify key issues to be addressed.

A new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) has recently been appointed who has acknowledged the need, and feels empowered, to transform the agency to one which emphasises law enforcement through automation and re-skilling parts of its workforce. The CEO has established an internal Reform Taskforce, which is partnered with an external change agent, to effect the necessary change management strategy and action the findings of this capability review and the Customs Reform Board.

This review has focused on the agency’s capability to deliver against future objectives. The review team has not engaged in the debate as to the future role of the agency in relation to other government departments or agencies, or to where its emphasis should lie.

Abbreviations and acronyms used in this report

AMIS Australian Maritime Identification System

APS Australian Public Service

CEO Chief Executive Officer

EPAC Enhanced Passenger Assessment and Clearance System

Executive CEO and Deputy CEOs

ICS Integrated Cargo System

IRC Investment Review Committee

IT Information Technology

KPI Key Performance Indicator

PBS Portfolio Budget Statement

SES Senior Executive Service

Last reviewed: 
29 March 2018