Border Force officers ordered to cover tattoos
Exclusive: Australian Border Force officers have been ordered to remove their insignia flashes and cover up their tattoos in the latest Home Affairs Department edict, which the union has warned is further eroding morale in the ranks.
The "uniforms, dress and appearance standards" instructional handbook updates issued now, has ordered uniformed officers cover up tattoos from public view while on duty or conducting any official departmental work.
The initial order has been reviewed following an initial outcry and has been reaffirmed.
Management is also pressing ahead with ordering the removal of insignias, known as "flashes", highlighting an officers specific unit from dog squad to maritime, from officers' shoulders.
CPSU National Vice-President Lisa Newman told News Corp Australia the Home Affairs Department is targeting the wrong issues.
"Border Force Officers work hard, spend long periods of time away from friends and family at sea," she said.
"Insignia like patches reflect camaraderie and people's pride in their work - why is the government bothering to mess with that when they could be solving real problems?"
She said the APS census earlier this year already showed desperately low morale in Home Affairs.
"This result is little surprise when management seems more interested in patches than dealing with the real challenges facing operational demand and services such as the loss of employment conditions, increasing workloads, government cuts and the impact of the ASL (average staffing level) cap," she said.
ABF sources said the patches might sound like a small thing but has angered many as it was symptomatic of bigger issues.
"It is that it isn't necessarily the patches themselves - but the sense that management are not listening to staff and that at a time when as you know morale is really low, management are fixating on this kind of thing when they could be addressing more important issues," they said.
An ABF spokesman said the ABF's public image was a critical component of maintaining public respect and confidence.
"The ABF has moved to one shoulder flash for the whole of the ABF," they said.
"The one ABF shoulder flash ensures consistency in uniforms and goes towards unifying the ABF as a border law enforcement agency.
"The Uniform Advisory Committee is consulting with ABF Commands in relation to those officers who are affected by this change and is working with them to design solutions to recognise the specialist nature of their roles in different ways beyond the use of flashes."
ABF troops have had one of their busiest years ever with record seizures of contraband including drugs and tobacco as well unprecedented levels of blocking undesirables at the border including organised crime figures and illegal visa holders.
According to the updated June 2019 instructional handbook, appearance is everything.
"Adhering to these standards of professionalism ensures the Department maintains the confidence of the Australian Government, the Australian community and partner law enforcement agencies," it says. "All officers must adopt the highest professional standard of dress and be mindful of aspects of their appearance in any given situation."
On the tattoos order, it said all "client facing" uniformed officers are required to cover-up as are others in the department.
"ABF uniformed officers representing the Department in an official capacity must wear a long sleeve shirt to cover their tattoos," the order says.
They have also issued instructions on beards, hair and other grooming orders.
Thousands have threatened to quit Peter Dutton's mega merged Home Affairs Department with a census of 10,000 workers finding high levels of bullying, low morale and poor engagement.