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Australian Government - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Advancing the interests of Australia and Australians internationally

Australian Government - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Advancing the interests of Australia and Australians internationally

Program 2.2: Passport services

Program 2.2 Objective

  • To provide Australians access to secure international travel documentation through the delivery of high-quality passport services.

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.
  • Maintenance of security standards, promotion of web-enabled services, and adherence to the client service commitment of passport issue within ten working days, while effectively managing an increasing workload.
  • Ongoing implementation of the National Security – Improved Passport Integrity and Strengthened Issuance Systems program.
  • Finalisation of the design for a new series of Australian travel documents.

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.
  • Staged delivery of the National Security – Improved Passport Integrity and Strengthened Issuance Systems program within budget and against timelines.
  • Design approval for the new series of Australian travel documents.

Overview

The department provided a secure, efficient and responsive passport service to Australian citizens in 2011–12. We issued 1 747 670 passports through a network of offices in Australian cities, diplomatic missions and consulates overseas, and approximately 1700 Australia Post outlets.

The department maintained a strong focus on client service, by meeting our target of issuing passports within 10 working days in 99.7 per cent of cases.

Security of the Australian passport remained a high priority. An audit conducted by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) confirmed the department's effective management of the ePassport. We continued working on the next generation of the Australian passport (the P-series), which will include enhanced security features. The P-series passport is scheduled for launch in mid-2014.

Passport services

We issued 1 747 670 passports in 2011–12 of which 98.6 per cent were produced in Australia. Australian diplomatic missions and consulates overseas issued 7976 emergency passports, compared with 7909 in 2010–11.

Figure 15. Travel documents issued

Figure 15. Travel documents issued

In 2011–12, 163 290 applicants paid the priority processing fee which guarantees an internal turnaround time of 48 hours, a decreasefrom 181 394 in 2010–11. We met the 48-hour target in 99.9 per cent of cases, refunding to only four applicants when the service level was not met.

Under the Australian Passport (Applications Fees) Act 2005, an annual passport fee increase in line with the consumer price index occurs each January. The fee for an ordinary passport increased to $233 from $226 on 1 January 2012.

We completed our new three-year funding agreement with the Department of Finance and Deregulation (DOFD).

Australia Post provides passport interviewing services through its network of approximately 1700 corporate and licensed post offices. During 2011–12, Australia Post conducted 92.9 per cent of domestic passport interviews. We renewed the department's contract with Australia Post for the provision of passport interview services.

Our online service remained popular, with 31.1 per cent of all passports issued using electronic application forms. This is an increase of 0.19 per cent from 2010–11.

The Australian Passport Information Service (APIS) provides information to clients about passport applications, renewals, documentation requirements, and arranges passport interview appointments with our Australian Passport Offices. During 2011–12, it handled 1 677 166 enquiries, which is a decrease of 4.2 per cent on 2010–11.

The number of passports reported lost or stolen was 38 062 which, as a percentage of the total passports on issue, is in line with the annual rate since the introduction of the Australian Passports Act 2005. The Act imposes fines and sanctions against clients who report their passports lost or stolen, and this continues to be an effective tool in keeping rates low.

Passports reported missing in the mail, following despatch from production centres, totalled 132 compared with 135 in 2010–11. We continued to work closely with Australia Post to reduce the number of passports that go missing in these circumstances.

We worked closely with the department's Information Management Division on the Passport Redevelopment Program (PRP). The new integrated passport processing and production system is expected to come on line in 2015. This will enable efficient production for high volumes of passports; combat identity theft; and improve security of passport operations.

The department worked closely with Australians who were affected by a disaster or crisis to facilitate the replacement of their travel document, waiving application fees in 275 cases.

The department saw an increase in child passport applications where full parental consent, or an Australian court order permitting the child to travel, had not been obtained. There has been a significant increase in these complex and legally challenging cases. The department received additional funding in the 2012–13 Budget to provide support for the increasing workload in this challenging environment.

In September 2011, the Government introduced a policy to make it easier for sex and gender diverse clients to apply for a passport in their preferred gender. Sex and gender diverse clients now have the option of presenting a statement from a medical practitioner, without the need for sex reassignment surgery. This policy is consistent with the Government's commitment to removing discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation or sex and gender identity.

Passport security

We continued the development of the next generation P-series passport, which remains on track for delivery in mid-2014. This passport will incorporate a number of new security features to ensure that the Australian passport maintains a high level of security, and remains an internationally respected document.

An ANAO audit 'Management of ePassports' was tabled in Parliament on 22 May 2012. The audit reported positively on the department's work in implementing a secure and fit-for-purpose Australian ePassport. Additionally, the report acknowledged the work of the department in improving and strengthening the passport issuing process to ensure that Australian travel documents are only issued to persons who are entitled to hold them.

The department remained a key player in the National Identity Security Strategy (NISS) led by the Attorney-General's Department. In particular, we focused on the promotion of document verification services, combating identity crime, and improving national management of death data. We were influential in ensuring that NISS strategic planning incorporated issues of importance to the department, and to mitigate the abuse of vulnerable identities for criminal activities.

We contributed to the work of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in the development of international standards for travel documents. The department was an active participant in a number of ICAO committees including: the Machine Readable Travel Document Working Group; the New Technologies Working Group; the Implementation and Capacity Building Working Group; and the Public Key Directorate.

Photo of Staff at the Australian Passport Office in Canberra.

Staff at the Australian Passport Office in Canberra.

Fraud detection and prevention

The department continued to work closely with intelligence and law enforcement partners to detect, investigate and prosecute passport fraud offences under the Australian Passports Act 2005. We introduced a new case management system to improve the reporting and recording of passport fraud cases.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs cancelled 61 passports under the Australian Passport Act 2005, down from 64 in 2010–11, for reasons concerning law enforcement, national security and child sex tourism.

Client Services Charter

We responded in a timely and efficient manner to client feedback, including 114 internal review requests, queries from the Ombudsman, and cases lodged for Compensation for Detriment Caused by Defective Administration claims.

The department developed a passport client feedback framework, to be rolled out in 2012–13. This new feedback framework will help us to analyse clients' views in order to improve processes and procedures.

Mystery shopper exercise

As part of the department's annual business assurance activities, the 2011 Mystery Shopper Exercise (MSE) concluded in November 2011. The MSE independently assessed and evaluated the client service performance of state and territory passport offices, the Australian Passport Information Service, the Consular Emergency Centre, and Australia Post outlets providing Australian passport services.

In this exercise, 88 per cent of independent respondents rated the client service and overall passport experience as good or exceptional. Recommendations from the survey were implemented and another MSE, using similar criteria, will be conducted throughout 2012.

Figure 16. 2011 Mystery shopper exercise – ratings for customer service satisfaction

Figure 16. 2011 Mystery shopper exercise – ratings for customer service satisfaction

Figure 17. 2011 Mystery shopper exercise – ratings for overall customer experience (presentation, service and ambience)

Figure 17. 2011 Mystery shopper exercise – ratings for overall customer experience (presentation, service and ambience)

Outlook

We will continue to improve client services, while maintaining high levels of efficiency, integrity and security in shaping operations for 2012–13.

The department will introduce a new passport client feedback framework. Efforts to combat passport fraud will continue with emphasis placed on improving data quality and facial matching technology.

Changes to the Passports Determinations 2005 will be introduced in 2012–13 to further improve the integrity and security of Australian passports and client service.

Development of the P-series passport, with enhanced security features, will be a priority to meet the proposed timeframe for launch in mid-2014.

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade