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 delivery and scheduling for the new 'P-series' Australian travel document.
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 and finalisation of production scheduling for the introduction of the new 'P-series' Australian travel document in mid-2014.

Program 2.2: Passport services

Overview

The department continued to provide a secure, efficient and responsive passport service to Australian citizens in 2012–13. We issued just over 1.7 million passports through a network of more than 1 600 Australia Post outlets, nine Australian Passport Offices in Australia and over 100 Australian diplomatic missions and consulates overseas.

The department maintained its strong focus on client service, issuing passports within 10 working-days in 98.8 per cent of cases. We worked closely with Australia Post to reduce the number of passports missing in the mail and assisted clients affected by natural disasters to obtain a replacement passport at no cost.

Security of the Australian passport remained a high priority. Work on the next generation of the Australian passport (the P-series) progressed with the design phase completed. The first P-series passports are scheduled to be issued in August 2014.

Passport services

We issued just over 1.7 million passports in 2012–13, the same as last year, of which 98.7 per cent were produced in Australia. Australian diplomatic missions and consulates overseas issued 8 020 emergency passports.

In 2012–13, 165 560 applicants paid the priority processing fee which guarantees an internal turnaround time of 48 business hours, an increase from 163 290 in 2011–12. We met the 48-hour target in 99.8 per cent of cases, refunding four applicants when the service level was not met.

The fee for an ordinary passport increased to $238 from $233 on 1 January 2013. This was in accordance with the Australian Passport (Applications Fees) Act 2005 that provides for an annual passport fee increase in-line with the consumer price index each January.

Australia Post provided passport interviewing services through its Australian national network of 1 676 corporate and licensed post offices. During 2012–13, Australia Post conducted 93.5 per cent of passport interviews in Australia.

Table 12: Travel documents issued

2010–11
2011–12
2012–13
TOTAL number of travel documents issued
1,774,224
1,747,670
1,703,850
% produced in Australia
98.6
98.6
98.7
% issued in 10 working days
99.8
99.7
98.8
Emergency passports issued by Australian diplomatic missions
7,909
7,976
8,020
Priority (PPF) passports issued
177,873
157,820
157,112
% issued in 48 hours
99.7
99.8
99.8
Documents reissued due to natural disaster
656
275
74

We continued to encourage the use of our online service, with electronic application forms used for 31.2 per cent of all passports issued, consistent with last year's usage. A serious systems failure occurred in June 2013 which disrupted clients' access to our website services for seven days. The outage did not affect the department's ability to process passport applications or impact on the security of client records. Clients were provided with alternative passport service channels. The department has since reviewed arrangements with the external service provider to mitigate the risks of recurring failures. (See also 3.1)

The Australian Passport Information Service (APIS) provided important passport information to clients and arranged passport interview appointments with our Australian Passport Offices. During 2012–13, APIS handled 1 696 007 enquiries, consistent with last year's level.

The number of passports reported lost or stolen was 37 720 (compared with 38 062 last year). As a percentage of the total passports on issue, this is consistent with the annual rate since the introduction of the Australian Passports Act 2005. The Act imposes fines and sanctions against clients who report lost or stolen passports.

The number of passports reported missing in the mail, following despatch from production centres, totalled 171 compared with 132 in 2011–12. The department continues to work closely with Australia Post to reduce this number.

In 2012–13, the Minister for Foreign Affairs announced that fees would be waived for the replacement of passports lost, damaged or destroyed as a result of crises and disasters including in the Queensland floods and the fires in Tasmania. The department reissued 74 passports at no cost to Australians affected by a disaster or crisis.

The number of child passport applications where full parental consent or an Australian court order permitting the child to travel had not been obtained continued to grow in number and complexity. We used additional departmental funding to increase staff resources dedicated to this function.

Delivering a contemporary passport service for Australia

The Australian Passport Office and the Information Management Division continued work on the Passport Redevelopment Program (PRP). The PRP will deliver a new passport issuance system that will be able to manage projected growth in passport issue rates. Full system implementation is scheduled for 2016. (See 3.1)

Passport security

Design work for the next generation P-series passport was completed. Production of the new passports will begin in September 2013 for issue from August 2014. The new security features of the P-series document will help to ensure the security, integrity and reputation of the Australian passport.

We continued our role 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. As part of the NISS work plan for 2012–13, we completed a strategic assessment of the risks associated with the abuse of vulnerable identities, for example, the identities of deceased persons.

We continued our contribution 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 Technical Advisory Group on Machine Readable Travel Documents; the New Technologies Working Group; the Implementation and Capacity Building Working Group; and, in 2012–13, Australia was re-elected to the Public Key Directorate Board. We continued our active participation in related technical working groups with the International Standards Organization.

Forensic Document Examiner, Passport Identity Section, Patricia Moss, examining a passport to determine its authenticity, Canberra. [DFAT]

Forensic Document Examiner, Passport Identity Section, Patricia Moss, examining a passport to determine its authenticity, Canberra. [DFAT]

 

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 investigated 632 allegations of passport fraud during the year. Eighty of these cases of possible breaches of the Act were referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The department continued efforts to combat passport fraud through the establishment of a specialist unit for the resolution of complex identity cases, including through the use of advanced facial matching technology.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs cancelled 48 passports, down from 61 in 2011–12, under the Australian Passport Act 2005 for law enforcement and national security reasons.

Client Services Charter

Under the Client Services Charter, the department solicited and responded to feedback on passport services.

According to the two client satisfaction surveys we conducted during 2012–13, the overall level of satisfaction with the service provided by the Australian Passport Office and its agents—Australia Post and the APIS—was good. Both surveys highlighted the importance of continual improvement in the public presentation of passport information, particularly on the website at www.passports.gov.au.

We made changes to the Australian Passports Determination 2005 to improve client service outcomes by, among other things, allowing lost and stolen fee waivers to clients in some circumstances and by bringing the instrument up to date with recently enacted anti-discrimination laws.

We responded to 85 passport complaints including through internal reviews, queries from the Commonwealth Ombudsman and claims under the government's Scheme for Compensation for Detriment caused by Defective Administration. The Commonwealth Ombudsman made no findings against the department on passport matters. (See Section 3)

We continued to refine the passport client feedback framework in order to improve our processes and procedures in response to feedback from clients.

Figure 17: Overall satisfaction with passport application process
(based on 1 205 clients surveyed over a one-month period)

Bar graph representing the overall customer satisfaction with the Australian Passport Offices and Post Offices that offer passport services - 1,205 people surveyed - where 1=extremely dissatisfied and 10 = extremely satisfied. The first bar represents the total, overall satisfaction with a score of 8.5. Total customer satisfaction of Passports Offices score = 8.6. Total customer satisfaction of Post Offices score = 8.4. Breakdown of customer satisfaction of metro and non-metro Post Offices: metro Post Offices score = 8.4. Non-metro Post Offices score 8.5.

Figure 18: Overall satisfaction with the Australian Passport Information
(based on 3 277 clients surveyed over a three-month period)

Bar graph representing the customer satisfaction with the Australian Passport Information Service (APIS) - 3,277 people surveyed - where 100% = very satisfied, 0% = unsatisfied. Overall customer satisfaction score = 92%. Satisfaction with ease of accessing service score = 82%. Satisfaction with amount of time to access service score = 81%. Satisfaction with staff score = 95%.

Outlook

We will continue to improve client services, while maintaining high levels of efficiency, integrity and security in shaping operations for 2013–14.

Progress on the new Passport Redevelopment Program will be a key priority until fully implemented in 2016.

We will continue our work with ICAO to ensure that Australia remains at the forefront of developments in passport technology.

We will focus on production of the P-series passport for issue in 2014.

Passport Production Centre officer, Lahai Kamanda, using one of the passport laminating machines that forms part of the passport personalisation process, Canberra, June 2013. [DFAT].

Passport Production Centre officer, Lahai Kamanda, using one of the passport laminating machines that forms part of the passport personalisation process, Canberra, June 2013. [DFAT].