March 30, 2019 / 2:06 AM / 7 months ago

Australia to boost national security funding by $400 million: newspaper

FILE PHOTO: The Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison attends a news conference in Canberra, Australia August 24, 2018. REUTERS/David Gray

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australia’s budget for the 2019/20 fiscal year will include an additional A$570 million ($404.36 million) for national security to boost counter-terrorism and anti-espionage operations, The Weekend Australian newspaper reported on Saturday.

The extra spending package for domestic spy agency the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and the Australian Federal Police (AFP) will fund programs such as anti-drone technology for the police and intelligence gathering in offshore conflict zones.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will unveil a budget on Tuesday that is expected to feature an avalanche of spending in an effort to arrest his conservative government’s slide in popularity.

The delivery of the budget for the year beginning July 1 will be a launching pad for a general election due in May.

The killing of 50 people in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 15 has sparked debate about Australia’s readiness to fight extremism.

An Australian man, a suspected white supremacist, has been charged with one count of murder and is expected to face more charges at his next court appearance on Friday.

Morrison said the extra money for security was not a response to concerns Australia had let extremists slip through its net.

“No, no. What this is is a recognition of the growing threat of extremist terrorism in so many different terms,” he said in televised remarks.

The Weekend Australian reported that the majority of the new spending would go to the AFP. The agency was expected to receive a A$512 million increase over the next five years to cope with a seven-fold increase in counter-terrorism operations and an eight-fold increase in the number of people being monitored under a security watch list, it said.

Reporting by Lidia Kelly; Editing by Paul Tait

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