Annual Report 2004-2005
 

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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 monitored public feedback on our travel advice, including through independent research conducted as part of the smartraveller initiative. This research confirmed that the smartraveller campaign and the cooperative relationships we developed with the travel industry are motivating increasing numbers of Australians to access our travel advice before they depart Australia. The research conducted in 2004–05 indicated that:

In the five months from July to November 2004, we received 131 letters and emails from the public on consular issues. Eighty-four were general inquiries, 30 commented positively on services provided for particular consular cases and on our information service, and 17 expressed dissatisfaction about elements of the department's service.

To improve our level of service, in December 2004 we introduced a formal complaints mechanism to capture feedback on consular services. Since then, the department received 138 items of correspondence commenting positively on the consular service and a further 187 containing general inquiries. Forty-seven letters and emails provided negative feedback.

The bulk of complaints concerned the timeliness of updates to the website, while some users expressed difficulty with cancelling subscriptions to the department's email alert service. A small number of users reported difficulty accessing the smartraveller online registration service. The remaining items of negative correspondence expressed concern about response times for passport processing, staff attitudes and service received, the accuracy of information contained in brochures and the reliability of automated telephone services.

Of the annual total, 64 items of correspondence expressed dissatisfaction, with over 50 per cent of these relating to the department's travel advice. This compares with 168 items of positive correspondence, most of which concerned service delivery. In all instances, we responded to complaints after investigating the concerns and, where warranted, took corrective action.

The department consolidated relations with the travel industry through initiatives such as the Smartraveller Consultative Group (SCG) and the Charter for Safe Travel, aimed at promoting awareness and use of travel advisories.

The SCG held its inaugural meeting in November 2004. Following SCG consultations, two key airline reservation system providers agreed to include hyperlinks to the smartraveller website in reservation software used by travel agents. We secured agreement from travel insurance providers and travel agents to highlight key travel advice and consular service messages in their publicity material.

The department encouraged travel industry representatives to join the Charter for Safe Travel, with membership of the Charter doubling to 2200 in the past year. As a result, nearly 50 per cent of the travel industry organisations registered with the Travel Compensation Fund (the national licensing and regulatory body for travel agents) have committed to working with the department to promote safe travel. We will work to increase this number.

Recognising the importance of the travel industry in communicating our messages to the travelling public, the department participated in 32 travel industry expos, conferences and seminars across Australia (compared to 11 similar events in 2003– 04) to promote travel advice and consular services. We received overwhelmingly positive feedback from event organisers and the public.

Crisis management procedures in place and tested

The department's crisis centre was activated for the following incidents during 2004–05:

The department responded to a number of major consular events including:

Suitability and effectiveness of contingency plans at overseas posts

The department evaluated 82 contingency plans held by our overseas missions and secured Austrade's agreement to participate in our contingency plan program for its posts.

The department developed event-specific contingency plans for three events where Australians were expected to gather in numbers: the Athens Olympics; the Aichi Expo in Japan; and Anzac Day commemorations in Turkey.

Building on work by the Department of Health and Ageing, we developed a generic contingency plan, to be rolled out soon, for posts in South-East Asia to respond to any outbreak of avian flu.

Client satisfaction with plans was consistently high:

Response time to consular issues

The department operates a 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre to respond to the consular needs of Australians overseas and as a point of advice on consular issues for Australian diplomatic and consular missions. To supplement this standing after-hours arrangement, we introduced an after-hours Watch Office with responsibility for monitoring international developments, including those likely to affect Australians, and for providing timely advice on passport issues to clients.

The department's significant consular workload, including in response to the attack on the Australian embassy in Jakarta, hostage taking in Iraq and the Indian Ocean tsunami, was demonstrated by the number of days of operation of our crisis centre and the number of IDETF meetings we convened and serviced (see table below).

Quantity information for output 2.1: consular services

Indicator 2004–05 2003–04
Number of Australians assisted overseas:
Consular cases1 25 731 12 946
Public inquiries2 355 490 363 952
Number of inquiries in response to the Indian Ocean tsunami (approx.)3 85 000  
Notarial acts performed4 100 851 87 545
Travel advice notices issued 447 527
Number of unexpected events or crises handled by the department 33 26
Number of associated Departmental Emergency Task Force and Inter-departmental Emergency Task Force meetings held 90 0
Duration of Crisis Centre operations 90 days 5 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 reported under public inquiries. The figure for 2004–05 includes 15 153 cases related to our response to the Indian Ocean tsunami.
  2. Public inquiries include inquiries on non-case related matters made at overseas posts and through the 1300 and 1800 call numbers in Australia. The 2004–05 figure does not include calls received in response to the Indian Ocean tsunami reported below.
  3. In the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami the department received over 85 000 inquiries related to locating and assisting Australians.
  4. These figures include notarial acts performed at overseas posts, in Canberra and in state and territory offices.

2.1.2 Passport services

Quality indicators

Quantity indicators

Satisfaction of the public and the travel industry

An external customer satisfaction survey commissioned in early 2005 found that 98 per cent of passport applicants were satisfied with the level of service they received. The survey also indicated that 97 per cent of applicants considered that ten working days was a reasonable period to wait for a passport. Almost two-thirds of those interviewed reported accessing passport information or services online.

The department conducted an extensive public information campaign both in Australia and overseas advising the travelling public of changes resulting from the new Passports Act effective from 1 July 2005. The campaign included written advice to the Australian Federation of Travel Agents and other travel industry representatives in Australia, print media advertisements, and television advertisements on ABC Asia Pacific. New passports information was incorporated in consular travel advices.

The priority processing service continued to be popular, with 177 860 applicants paying a fee to ensure their passports were issued within 48 hours. This compares to 165 549 applicants last year.

Turnaround time for passport issue

Passport demand rose by 16 per cent over the previous year, placing considerable pressure on passport offices to meet service commitments. Nevertheless, 92.4 per cent of normal applications were processed within the ten working days service commitment, achieving an average turnaround time of 5.8 days. Of those who paid the priority processing fee, 97.9 per cent received their travel document within 48 hours. Fees were refunded to only 107 applicants because the 48-hour turnaround time was not met. A further 682 applicants had their fees refunded on compassionate grounds.

Quantity information for output 2.1: passport services

Indicator 2004–05 2003–04
Number of passport inquiries handled by the Australian Passport Information Service1 1 303 822 1 496 907
Number of travel documents issued, including urgent issues2 1 260 831 1 086 366
  1. The decrease in the number of inquiries handled by the Australian Passport Information Service reflects increased use by applicants of the Passports website.
  2. Travel documents include passports, documents of identity, certificates of identity and convention travel documents

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Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Annual Report 2004–2005
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