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Criminal justice resources

Justice expenditure

According to the Report on Government Services 2000, the total government expenditure on justice in 1998-99 was approximately $6 billion. Since 1994-95, government expenditure on justice has increased at a real average annual growth rate of 5.4%.

The largest component of the justice system was police services, which accounted for approximately 66% of the total justice-related expenditure covered by the report. Corrective services accounted for a further 20%, and court administration accounted for the remaining 14% (see Figure 60).

Figure 60 : Composition of government expenditure on justice, 1998-99

Figure 60


Policing activities are predominantly the responsibility of the police agencies of State and Territory governments, with the Australian Federal Police providing a community policing service in the ACT on behalf of the ACT Government. Funding for these services comes almost exclusively from State and Territory government budgets, with some specific-purpose grants being provided by the Commonwealth.

The Commonwealth Government operates the Australian Federal Police. The figures discussed below exclude resource data for the AFP.


The total recurrent expenditure on police services across Australia was $4.1 billion. This amounts to $217 for every person in Australia. Recurrent expenditure on staff salaries accounted for 76% of this total expenditure.

Table 8 : Expenditure on Australian police services, 1998-99
Total recurrent expenditure4 121 419
Total capital expenditure257 483
Total expenditure4 378 902
Staff salaries($)
Average police staff salaries66 174
Average non-police staff salaries42 335

Source: Reference 9.


Most people involved directly in the delivery of police services are sworn police officers (employees recognised under each jurisdiction's Police Act). Sworn police officers exercise police powers such as the powers to arrest, summons, caution, detain, fingerprint and search.

In recent years there has been a trend towards 'civilianisation' of police services, with some non-core activities undertaken by non-sworn officers or contracted to external providers.

  • The total police services staffing in Australia in 1999 was 55 200, an increase of 4% on the number recorded in 1998. This averages out at 291 per 100 000 persons (227 sworn police officers and 64 civilian employees).
  • There were 43 048 sworn police officers and 12 152 civilian employees making up Australian police services in 1999.
Table 9 : Composition of police services by jurisdiction, as at 30 June 1999
JurisdictionSworn policeCivilianTotal officers
NSW13 4713 78917 260
VIC9 7771 72511 502
QLD7 5192 80810 327
WA4 8501 8516 701
SA3 5927824 374
TAS1 0763701 446
NT8761971 073
AUST43 04812 15255 200
  • New South Wales had the largest police service across Australia, while the Australian Capital Territory had the smallest.
  • Western Australia employed the highest proportion of civilian staff (28%), and the Australian Capital Territory employed the lowest (9%).
  • Since June 1995 there has been a 1% increase in the number of sworn police officers and a 24% increase in the number of civilian employees in the police services of Australia.

Sources: References 9, 16 and 17.

Figure 61 : Sworn police officers per 100 000 population, by jurisdiction, as at 30 June 1999

Figure 61

  • Generally there is little difference across jurisdictions in the number of sworn police officers per 100 000 population, with the exception of the Northern Territory which is well above the national average.
  • The Northern Territory had the largest number of police officers per 100 000 population (454.2), while Victoria had the smallest (207.5). However, Victoria had 43 police officers per 1 000 km2, while the Northern Territory had only one.

Sources: References 6 and 17.

Court administration

Court administration agencies throughout Australia provide a range of services integral to the effective performance of the judicial system. These agencies work with the judiciary and the community to provide a court system that allows the prompt resolution of disputes and appropriate access to justice for the community.

  • The total recurrent expenditure by State, Territory and Commonwealth court authorities was approximately $816 million in 1998-99, an annual increase of 4% (in real terms) since 1994-95.
  • Expenditure for criminal court administration was slightly above $382 million for 1998-99.

Figure 62 : Total expenditure (less in-house revenue) for criminal courts, 1998-99

Figure 62

  • The magistrates' courts incurred 63% of total criminal court expenditure, followed by the intermediate courts (25%) and then the Supreme Courts (12%).

Figure 63 shows the average expenditure per case lodgment in the criminal courts. The higher the level of court, the more expensive each criminal case lodgment becomes. This is because the more complex and lengthy cases are tried in the higher courts.

Figure 63 : Average expenditure * per criminal case lodgment, 1998-99

Figure 63

*Includes payroll tax to facilitate comparisons with earlier years.
  • Average expenditure per criminal case lodgment ranged from $130 in the magistrates' courts, to $9 449 in the Supreme Courts.

Source: Reference 9.

Corrective services

Resources allocated for corrective services in Australia are divided into two broad categories: prisons and community corrections.

Total recurrent expenditure on corrective services in Australia was approximately $1 179 million in 1998-99: $1 049 million (89%) for prisons and $130 million (11%) for community corrections. This corresponds to a figure of about $81 for every adult in Australia.

Figure 64 : Recurrent expenditure on corrective services per head of adult population (17 years and over), 1998-99

Figure 64

  • Recurrent expenditure on corrective services per head of adult population in 1998-99 ranged from $42.96 in Victoria to $294.04 in the Northern Territory.

Figure 65 : Corrective services expenditure per offender per day, 1998-99

Figure 65

  • Expenditure per prisoner per day was $140.86 in 1998-99, ranging from $105.65 in Queensland to $192.27 in the ACT. The national figure was 22 times more than that spent on offenders in community correction programs each day.
  • Expenditure per offender sentenced to community correction programs per day was only $6.45 in 1998-99.
  • Overall in 1998-99, approximately $51 414 was spent on each prisoner and $2 354 on each offender sentenced to community correction programs.

Sources: References 6 and 9.

Last updated
3 November 2017