When any member of the public makes an enquiry, lodges an application or engages in any discussion with an official about an Australian travel document, that person is entitled to expect that all information they provide in statements and conversations will be used and protected in line with the Privacy Act 1988 and the Australian Passports Act 2005. All such information is held in-confidence and is not to be released to any other person or authority, except in accordance with circumstances consistent with the Privacy Act 1988, Australian Passports Act 2005 or the Freedom of Information Act 1982. The following paragraphs and instructions issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Canberra, must also be followed.
Unlawful release of information
Any release of information outside the legislative framework could be unlawful and lead to prosecution under the Crimes Act or to action under the Public Service Act 1999. Further, disclosure of personal information outside of the Department could also be contrary to Information Privacy Principle 11 contained in the Privacy Act 1988, Section 14.
Confidentiality an de-identifying of records
Schedule 3 of the National Privacy Principles of the Privacy Act 1988 states that personal information not relevant to the travel document application should be not be collected (blacked out) from the photocopy of Personal Identity Documents (PIDs) where necessary. Schedule 3 (1.1) states that ‘the organisation will not collect personal information unless the information is necessary for one or more of its functions or activities.’ Schedule 3 (4.2) states that ‘an organisation will also take reasonable steps to destroy or permanently de-identify personal information if it is no longer needed for any purpose for which the information may be used or disclosed.’
For more information on when personal information should be blacked out by the interviewing officer see Categories A, B and C documents
The Privacy Act 1988
The Privacy Act 1988 prohibits disclosure of any personal information to a third person, agency or body except in specified circumstances. Personal information may be disclosed if:
- The individual concerned is reasonably likely to have been aware, or made aware, that the information is usually passed to a person, body or agency;
- The individual concerned has consented to the disclosure;
- The record-keeper believes on reasonable grounds that the disclosure is necessary to prevent or lessen a serious and imminent threat to the life or health of any person;
- The disclosure is required or authorised by or under law; or
- The disclosure is reasonably necessary for the enforcement of criminal law or of a law imposing a financial penalty, or for the protection of public revenue.
Note: a very high threshold must be satisfied in order to meet the requirements of these exemptions.