Refusal/Cancellation Requests by Competent Authorities
Introduction: request by competent authority
Under sections 12, 13, 14 and 16 of the Australian Passports Act 2005 (the Act) a competent authority may make requests to:
- refuse to issue an Australian travel document;
- cancel an Australian travel document; or
- both refuse to issue and cancel an Australian travel document.
These requests are called refusal/cancellation requests. Sections 12, 13, 14 and 16 of the Act set out the circumstances where a competent authority may make a refusal/cancellation request. Section 22 (2) (d) of the Act provides legal authority to cancel a passport where a refusal/cancellation request has been made.
Sections 12, 13, 14 and 16 of the Act each specify who may act as a competent authority for the purposes of each section. Competent authorities are additionally specified in Part 3 of the Australian Passports Determination 2005 (the Determination). Circumstances in which such requests may be made and the competent authorities that would make them are outlined below.
Within the Australian Passport Office the Competent Authority Requests and Approved Senior Officer Unit (CAU) is responsible for the administration of these sections of the Act.
Notification of decision not to issue passport and appeal rights
Where an Eligibility Officer assesses a passport application for a person (the applicant) for who a competent authority has made a request under the Act, a letter must be sent to the applicant advising them of the decision and informing them of their review rights under section 48 of the Act.
The letter will also give the applicant a period of 10 working days to resolve the circumstances preventing the issue of a passport (e.g. to liaise with law enforcement authorities about an outstanding warrant), otherwise the application will be refused. During this period the application will remain on HOLD in PICS.
Where an application is refused, any application fee cannot be refunded or transferred to any subsequent application. Any new application must be accompanied by payment of the appropriate application fee.
Decisions to cancel a passport (and at times not to issue a passport) will generally be taken by the Minister for Foreign Affairs. In such cases the Competent Authority and Approved Senior Officer Unit (CAU) will send written advice to the applicant about the decision and right of review. In most circumstances the letter will also demand the surrender of the cancelled passport.
Australian law enforcement
Under subsection 12(2) of the Act, if a competent authority makes a request to the Minister to refuse a passport, the Minister must not issue an Australian passport to the person.
Competent authority requests to cancel a passport under subsection 12(2) of the Act must be referred to the Competent Authority and Approved Senior Officer Unit (CAU) in Canberra. CAU will in turn refer the request to the Minister for a decision to cancel the passport or not.
Competent authorities must use prescribed forms to submit passport refusal (Annex 18) and cancellation (Annex 19) requests. A copy of the relevant warrant, legal order or direction must be attached to the request form.
Competent authorities for this purpose are specified in Section 12 of the Act and in Part 3.1 of the Determination.
The most likely persons or organisations to submit requests are (but not exclusively):
- Australian Federal, State and Territory police
- Australian courts
- Parole boards
- Bankruptcy (public) trustees or firms appointed to act on their behalf
- Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC)
- Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO)
- Attorney-General’s Department (specified SES officers)
- Australian Customs Service
- Australian Crime Commission.
The Passport Office which receives a competent authority request to refuse a passport (Annex 18) must raise the corresponding alert into PICS within one working day. If the person has a current passport, the case must be referred to CAU for further action.
Passport Offices may provide competent authorities with the forms (Annex 18 or 19) together with the accompanying explanatory Fact Sheet: Refusal/Cancellation of Passports for Australian Law Enforcement Reasons.
International law enforcement
Section 13 of the Act sets out the circumstances where an Australian passport may be refused or cancelled on the receipt of a request from a competent authority for reasons related to international law enforcement.
Competent authorities for this purpose are specified in Section 13 of the Act and in Part 3.2 of the Determination.
While numerous persons may act as competent authorities for this section of the Act, for administrative efficiency SES officers in the Australian Passport Office fulfil this role.
Potential for harmful conduct
Section 14 of the Act provides for a competent authority to request the Minister for Foreign Affairs to refuse or cancel an Australian passport where the competent authority forms a reasonable suspicion that the person is likely to engage in harmful conduct and that, by denying a passport, the harmful activity might be prevented.
Competent authorities for this purpose are specified in Section 14 of the Act and in Part 3.4 of the Determination.
The Competent Authority Requests and Approved Senior Officer Unit (CAU) is responsible for liaison with competent authorities and for preparing submissions for consideration by the Minister.
Debtors: request by competent authority
On receipt of a request from a competent authority, section 16 of the Act allows a delegated officer to consider refusing to issue an Australian passport to a person who owes money to the Commonwealth.
Competent authorities for this purpose are persons who have the authority to lend money to the debtor on behalf of the Commonwealth. The Minister has delegated his refusal/cancellation powers under this section of the Act to a number of officers. For administrative efficiency the Director Passport Policy and Operations undertakes this function.
In cases involving compassionate circumstances (death or serious illness of an immediate family member) or adverse effects to the debtor’s welfare, the issue of a travel document may be approved by an officer delegated by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, see ‘Australian Passports Act 2005 – Authorisations and Delegations’.
Cases involving unusual and extenuating circumstances outside these provisions may be referred to the Passport Policy and Operations Section for consideration.