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Your location: Performance > Outcome 2 > Output 2.1 > Output 2.1 Quality and quantity information

OUTPUT 2.1: Consular and passport services

Output 2.1 Quality and quantity information

2.1.1 Consular services

Quality indicators

Quantity indicators

Satisfaction of the public and the travel industry

The department is committed under the Consular Services Charter to providing effective, prompt and courteous consular services in an equitable way to all Australians and to protecting their privacy in accordance with the Privacy Act 1988. Consular client feedback on our consular and information services remains very positive. In Canberra, we received 145 unsolicited letters and emails commenting positively on services provided in respect of particular consular cases and on our information service.

We received a further 892 letters and emails of general enquiry, which represents a 39 per cent increase over 2001–02. This increase can be attributed primarily to an increased focus on travel advice and consular services more generally, particularly in the wake of the Bali bombings, terrorist threats, the conflict in Iraq and the outbreak of the SARS virus. This trend is also evident in the number of public enquiries received at our overseas posts and in Canberra, which rose from 133 665 in 2001–02 to 430 349 in 2002–03.

Only a small number of letters and emails—less than four per cent of the total received—expressed dissatisfaction with the level of service we provided. In all instances of negative feedback we followed up directly with clients, investigated their concerns and provided a response explaining the circumstances, including in cases where we were unable to provide the services they expected.

The department continued to work to promote greater awareness of the extent of consular assistance services, including through the establishment of a section on our website outlining what consuls can and cannot do.

The travel industry provided close feedback through correspondence and at a range of forums. While the industry has been seriously affected by the uncertain international environment of the past year, in the main it understands and supports our work to ensure Australians' travel abroad is well-informed. This is reflected by the industry's support for and participation in the voluntary Government–Industry Charter for Safe Travel, launched by Mr Downer in June 2003.

In 2002–03, we surveyed travel industry views through an Internet-based survey. Results indicated that:

We were responsive to industry feedback, developing a Frequently Asked Questions page on our website that outlines the Government's methodology in the formulation of travel advice, and the development of a training module to help travel agents use travel advice.

Consular crises and crisis management

The department manages responses to crises through its Emergency Task Force and Inter-departmental Emergency Task Force. In 2002–03 the Inter-departmental Emergency Task Force met 129 times, compared to 17 during the previous reporting period. We convened 19 meetings on the Bali terrorist attacks, 92 meetings on Iraq, four on the Philippines, four on the Middle East and ten on East Timor.

The Crisis Centre was activated for 13 days to manage the Government's response to the Bali bombings and for 26 days for the conflict in Iraq. We also responded to a number of major consular events including:

During the year we handled more than 130 higher-profile consular cases requiring the drafting of media talking points, and upgraded our travel advisories where concerns were held for the welfare of Australians overseas. We carefully scrutinised and provided up-to-date travel advice in response to a number of emergency situations during the year, including Bali (October 2002), terrorist threats against Australian interests in East Timor (September 2002), the Philippines (November 2002) and Indonesia (March 2003), the conflict in Iraq (March 2003) and the SARS virus (April–June 2003).

Suitability and effectiveness of contingency plans at overseas posts

In 2002–03, contingency plans for a number of posts were tested by international developments. The bombings in Bali, the conflict in Iraq and planning for Anzac Day arrangements in Turkey generated considerable activity centred on the relevant posts' contingency plans.

Client satisfaction with plans was consistently high:

Drawing on the lessons learnt during the past year, we began in June 2003 a review of the contingency planning template provided to our posts, in consultation with the Department of Defence.

Response time to consular issues

The department's consular operations are structured to allow immediate response to consular cases and international crises. Australians within Australia have free-call access to assistance around the clock. Outside business hours of their nearest consular post, Australians overseas have free-call or reverse-charge access to assistance through our 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre in Canberra or to local consular duty officers.

Within a few hours of the terrorist bombings in Bali, our crisis mechanisms were fully operational and assisting Australians with enquiries about family members or friends who may have been caught up in the tragedy. The magnitude of the Bali tragedy meant that the department has strengthened these facilities to allow better management of mass casualty cases in the future.

Quantity information
Indicator 2002–03 2001–02
Number of Australians assisted overseas:
Consular cases1 19 196 24 158
Public inquiries2 430 349 133 665
Notarial acts performed3 73 514 74 932
Travel advice notices issued4 593 705
Number of unexpected events or crises handled by the department 39 12
Number of associated departmental Emergency Task Force and Inter-departmental Emergency Task Force meetings held5 129 17
Duration of Crisis Centre operations6 39 days 9 days
  1. These statistics refer to inquiries about actual cases at posts and do not include general inquiries on non-case-related consular matters (eg travel advice). These are now reported under public inquiries.
  2. Public inquiries include inquiries on non-case related matters made at overseas posts and through the 1300 and 1800 call numbers in Australia.
  3. These figures include notarial acts performed at overseas posts, in Canberra and in state and territory offices.
  4. Travel advisories for all countries were reissued in 2001–02 following the terrorist attacks in the United States on 11 September 2001. The department has maintained a system of regular updates to the advisories.
  5. There were a number of departmental Emergency Task Force and Inter-departmental Emergency Task Force meetings held. They were for Bali 19, Philippines 4, Middle East 4, East Timor 10 and Iraq 92.
  6. The increase in the duration of Crisis Centre operations was principally due to the Bali bombings.

2.1.2 Passport services

Quality indicators

Quantity indicators

Satisfaction of the public and the travel industry

Results from the second customer satisfaction survey for the department confirmed that service was maintained at a high level; very few ratings indicated a decline since the first survey was conducted in April 2001 and some showed clear improvement. Customers rated the overall process of applying for a passport as follows: 89 per cent good/very good; nine per cent acceptable; two per cent poor.

Each passport production staff member (that is, non-management staff at passport offices) produced on average 5832 passports in 2002–03 compared to 6335 in 2001–02, reflecting reduced demand for passports.

The great majority of passport applicants lodge their applications at an Australia Post outlet and the client survey found that the majority of applicants received attention in under ten minutes. Under the Australia Post outreach training program, departmental training officers conducted training seminars for post office staff at several metropolitan and rural centres during the year and provided one-on-one training at 82 postal outlets.

Turnaround time for passport issue

The average passport turnaround time for applications lodged in Australia was 6.4 days, well under the ten day turnaround time in the Client Service Charter. This was a similar level of service to the previous year.

The number of passports issued in 2002–03 was 906 049, down eight per cent on the previous year (986 316), the decrease reflecting the downturn in international travel due to security concerns and the spread of the SARS virus. Of this figure:

The Australian Passport Information Service (APIS) received 1 123 133 calls during the year of which 28 per cent were answered by the integrated voice response system and the remainder by a passport adviser. The majority of calls related to travel document renewals. APIS mailed out over 234 000 renewal applications and responded to 48 267 emails. The service levels achieved by APIS were well within contractual performance benchmarks, with caller waiting times averaging 47 seconds and call duration averaging 125 seconds.

Quantity information
Indicator 2002–03 2001–02
Number of passport enquiries handled by the Australian Passport Information Service1 1 123 133 1 206 736
Number of travel documents issued, including urgent issues2 906 049 986 316
  1. The decrease in the number of inquiries handled reflects the downturn in international travel due to security concerns and the spread of the SARS virus.
  2. Travel documents include passports, documents of identity, certificates of identity and convention travel documents. The decrease in the number of documents issued again reflects the downturn in international travel.

 

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Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Annual Report 2002–2003
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