OUTCOME 2: The protection and welfare of Australians abroad and access to secure international travel documentation through timely and responsive travel advice and consular and passport services in Australia and overseas
Program 2.2: Passport services
Program 2.2 Objective
- To provide Australians access to secure international travel documentation through the delivery of a high-quality passports service.
Program 2.2 Deliverables
- High-quality passport services to Australians, including processing new passport applications, registering lost or stolen passports, issuing emergency passports, and detecting passport fraud.
- Effective management of an increasing workload, including maintenance of security standards, promotion of web-enabled services, and adherence to the client service commitment of passport issue within ten working days.
Program 2.2 Key performance indicators
- Public and travel industry clients are satisfied with the department’s efficiency and effectiveness in delivering passport services, with routine passports issued within ten working days and urgent passport issues dealt with in a timely and responsive manner.
- The demand for passport services is managed effectively, including in a way that maintains security, efficiency and responsiveness, and that builds on information technology capabilities and innovative solutions.
Program 2.2. Passport services
Against a continued growing demand for passports and the increasing challenges of identity fraud, the department delivered an efficient, client-focused passport service for Australian citizens in Australia and overseas.
The passport network comprises offices in nine Australian cities, diplomatic and consular missions overseas, the Australian Passport Information Service call centre, the consular emergency centre and almost 1700 Australia Post outlets. Around 48 per cent of the population now hold passports.
Demand for passports grew by 1.65 per cent, with more than 1.8 million passports issued in 2010–11. The department issued passports to clients with an average internal turnaround time of 3.7 days, well below the 10 day commitment in our Client Service Charter. Increased resources for business assurance functions and staff training programs and materials improved the integrity of operations and responsiveness to clients. To further improve client service, the department continued to develop an improved online service capability.
We opened a new production centre in Sydney to supplement our facilities in Canberra. We also reviewed our business forecasting model to ensure it remained responsive to local and global economic conditions.
We increased our resourcing of our fraud investigation network and introduced new fraud detection programs. The department worked with domestic and international agencies to promote identity and border security.
As part of integration of the department’s information and communications technology (ICT) the $100.8 million Passport Redevelopment Program (PRP) moved to the department’s Information Management and Technology Division. New printers and laminators contributed significantly to the security and quality of the current N-series passport. We worked on the design of the next generation passport, the P-series.
Demand for passport services remained solid, growing by 1.65 per cent during 2010-11. We reviewed passport forecasting mechanisms and developed new modelling to forecast the number of passport applications that we receive each month. We are incorporating forecasting functions into the reporting mechanisms of the PRP.
We issued a record 1 803 549 passports up from 1 774 224 in 2009–10. This brought the total valid Australia passports currently on issue to 10 972 983 (on 30 June 2011), up from 10 412 587 (on 30 June 2010). Of these, 8 141 935 are e-passports, representing 74.2 per cent of the total number of valid passports in circulation.
We produced 1 779 092 passports in Australia and 16 548 at production centres in Washington and London. Australian diplomatic missions issued 7909 emergency passports to Australians in 2010–11 compared with 7500 in 2009–10.
We opened a new passport production centre in Sydney in November 2010 to help us meet growing demand. The centre has produced up to 3000 passports daily.
In 2010–11, the average internal turnaround time for passport production was 3.7 days, down from 4.1 days in 2009–10, and well within the Client Service Charter commitment of 10 working days. This compared favourably with the benchmark countries of Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.
A total of 181 394 applicants paid the priority processing fee which guarantees an internal turnaround time of 48 hours, a decrease from 191 532 in 2009–10. Fees were refunded to five applicants when the 48 hour turnaround service level was not met compared with 10 applicants in 2009–10.
Use of online services continued to grow. More than 31 per cent of all passports issued used online forms, up from 28 per cent in 2009–10. The department further developed the Passport Online Project as part of the PRP which will deliver a new online application and interview service that will electronically capture application information directly from clients. A new online process will further improve client service, strengthen identity confirmation as well as assist in managing growth in demand.
The department reviewed and revised processes surrounding the issue of passports to children when the consent of both parents is not available. We developed an outreach program to the public and to institutions providing services to separated families, explaining passport services available in circumstances where parental consent is a consideration.
Our general public information programs were expanded to include social media platforms such as YouTube and Twitter, in line with recommendations of the Government 2.0 Taskforce Report.
On 1 January 2011, the Government raised passport fees using a combination of CPI and fixed price increases. Annual fee increases in line with CPI will occur each January. Passport fees were collected and administered in a timely, efficient and accountable manner.
Passport assistance to Australians affected by crises and natural disasters
The department contributed significant passport assistance to Australians involved in crises and natural disasters in Queensland, the Middle East, New Zealand and Japan. Passports were issued urgently for emergency response teams, and procedures were streamlined to provide replacement travel documents for affected citizens, waiving fees in 656 of these cases. The department developed and deployed to Japan a stand-alone emergency kit to enable passports to be issued away from offices and posts.
Jenny Hill brings more than a decade of passports expertise to her work as a team leader in the Brisbane Passport Office, providing high quality services to passport clients and mentoring staff. Jenny led the Natural Disaster Response Team to help those affected by the floods and cyclone in Queensland in the summer of 2010–11. Her team issued emergency travel documents and gratis replacement passports to clients whose travel documents had been lost or damaged.
“Leading our disaster response team has been one of my most rewarding experiences since I joined the passport office. In the months following the floods and cyclone, my team replaced more than 550 lost or damaged passports for clients who experienced so much loss and hardship. It was a privilege to play a small part in helping them restore what may seem a minor element of their personal lives, but one which is pivotal in securing other services which help rebuild lives.”
Passports can be crucial documents following a natural disaster as they confirm personal identity for many purposes, including the receipt of government benefits. Where a victim of a disaster needs to travel urgently for reasons triggered by the crisis, an efficient and responsive passport service, such as that provided by Jenny and her team, is vital.
Indigenous students from the Kununurra Follow the Dream/Partnership for Success program in the Kimberley region of Western Australia display their brand new passports prior to heading to Vietnam. The students built a vegetable garden and taught English at a school in Tra Vinh. (L-R): Lawrence Evans, Akram Greddon, Program Coordinator Garry Dagg, Denelle Davies and Renee Winton.
Photo: The West Australian
The department installed new passport printers and laminators across the network to improve security and quality of the N-series passport. We worked on the design of new security features for the P-series passport, due for release in 2013–14.
Jointly with the University of NSW, the department successfully bid for funds to support biometric research over three years. The research will improve the use of facial recognition systems as part of the passport issuing process.
The number of passports reported lost or stolen was 36 161 (0.3 per cent of passports on issue on 30 June 2011), compared with 36 099 in 2009–10. Fines and sanctions for people whose passports were lost or stolen, introduced in the Australian Passports Act 2005, have encouraged passport holders to protect their documents and penalised those involved in passport fraud.
Passports reported missing in the mail following despatch from production centres totalled 135, compared with 115 in 2009–10. The department continued working with Australia Post to trace missing documents. Since 1999–00, the number of passports lost in the mail has decreased by almost 94 per cent. Over the same period, the number of passports issued increased by approximately 60 per cent.
The transfer of passports ICT to a centralised departmental structure in 2011–12 was carefully planned to prevent compromising passport integrity or interruption to business processes, while preserving client service standards.
National and international cooperation
The department remained a key player in the National Identity Security Strategy led by the Attorney-General’s Department, particularly in the promotion of the Document Verification Service, combating identity crime and improving national management of death data. We supported border security through the Border Management Group led by the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service.
To encourage international adherence to robust standards of passport security, the department was closely engaged in the work of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). We participated in its Machine Readable Travel Document (MRTD) Working Group responsible for the standards and design of the MRTD, the New Technologies Working Group and the Implementation and Capacity Building Working Group. The department played a significant role in ICAO’s ongoing development of electronic chip technology for travel documents, the Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) which secures the information on the chip, and the Public Key Directorate which distributes PKI information across participating ICAO member states. The department has been active in developing biometrics standards as part of the International Organization for Standardization.
As part of the Bali Process, the department co-hosted with Malaysia a Regional Passports Integrity Workshop to improve passport integrity, fraud prevention and issuance practices in the region. The department cooperated closely with the Five Nations Passport Conference, which involved Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States in benchmarking and refining passport operations and policy, as well as enhancing international programs on passport fraud and biometrics.
To improve its capacity to detect, investigate and prosecute fraud offences under the Australian Passports Act 2005, the department worked closely with intelligence partners, recruited additional staff members, and began development of new systems. In 2010–11, we investigated 838 new cases, compared to 644 cases in 2009–10. This increase is attributed to the growing number of passports in circulation, increased fraud detection capability, and a new outreach program which encourages fraud referrals from external sources.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs cancelled 64 passports, down from 118 in 2009–10, under the Australian Passports Act 2005 for reasons concerning law enforcement, national security and child sex tourism.
Under the Client Service Charter, the department solicited and responded to feedback on passport services. We sought feedback through online facilities, the Australian Passport Information Service, feedback forms at passport offices, and mystery-shopper exercises (in which researchers pose as genuine users of our services) conducted by an independent market research firm.
The department’s annual mystery shopper exercise concluded in September 2010. In this exercise, 88 per cent of independent researchers rated the service at Australian passport offices and Australia Post passport interviewing outlets as good or exceptional. The results indicated a high level of staff adherence to client service standards and an improvement in service across the passport network. We implemented recommendations made by the researchers on display of information on fee schedules in our offices.
In 2010–11, the department commenced development of a new formal feedback policy or passport services. The policy will be implemented in 2011–12, providing a clearer framework to manage client feedback. We resolved complaints from clients lodged through Internal Review and the Commonwealth Ombudsman in a timely and efficient manner. We responded to 61 complaints through internal review processes, including from the Commonwealth Ombudsman and in response to cases lodged for Compensation for Detriment Caused by Defective Administration.
Figure 17. 2010 Mystery shopper exercise: Customer service satisfaction
Continuously improving client service while maintaining high levels of integrity will shape operations in 2011–12.
The department will launch its new passport client feedback framework and will conduct business assurance reviews to improve the security and responsiveness of passport services. We will further enhance efforts to combat passport fraud.
As part of our ongoing business approach, we will continue to review passport policies, legislation and outreach programs to ensure we meet high levels of client service and integrity.
Development of the next generation passport, with enhanced security features, will be a priority to meet the proposed timeframe for launch in 2013–14.