Calls for intel agencies to be spared from budget cuts

AUSTRALIA'S intelligence agencies should be exempt from budget cuts and "efficiency dividends", and have the resources they need to avert potentially "catastrophic" consequences, the Abbott government has been urged.

In a report on the finances of Australia's intelligence agencies, the Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security on Monday recommended all such agencies be exempt from budget cuts.

As the Abbott government prepares the ground for the most significant reforms of Australia's national security reforms since 2005, the committee warned it was difficult to assess "at what point resources will prove inadequate".

But, the bipartisan committee wrote, it was clear that Australia's intelligence community was "either reaching or have reached the point where they may no longer be able to address national security priorities if current funding patterns continue".

To address the lack of funds, the committee has urged the government to exempt intelligence agencies from the "efficiency dividend" - a percentage of savings which other Commonwealth departments each year to maintain the budget.

"The committee has sufficient evidence before it to demonstrate that the continued implement of the efficiency dividend and other savings measures will affect operations," the report reads.

"The committee views the risks associated with reducing an agency's operational capacity or capability as akin to the risks associated with reducing Australia's defence capability."

The report, tabled in parliament on Monday, also warned that if the spooks did not have the resources needed, "the consequences could be catastrophic".

The government is yet to respond to the report.