The Hon. Alexander Downer, MP
The Hon. Alexander Downer, MP

Media Release

FA24- 17 February 2004

Boost to Passport Security

Proposed changes to the Australian Passports Act will bolster national security by increasing passport security measures and increasing maximum penalties for passport fraud to10 years in prison.

The Government has decided to revise the 65-year-old Act to boost national security and to ensure that a modern legal structure underpins our world-class passports operations.

The decision follows the introduction in December of the M-series tamper-proof passport and on-line services to streamline passport applications.

Identity fraud costs Australians about $1.1 billion annually. The new measures will support the Government’s work to combat this fraud.

The proposed amendments will provide for the inclusion of a facial biometric indicator in new passports. They will also increase penalties for the illegal use of passports and provide for action against those who lose two or more passports and institute international alerts on lost and stolen passports.

Increased powers to cancel the passports of criminals and those suspected of serious crimes such as people smuggling will also be incorporated into the Act.

Consultation with interest groups will be held prior to the introduction of the draft legislation into Parliament to ensure that the revisions meet the needs of the eight million Australians who hold a current passport.

A background paper is available on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website or by writing to Passports Act Revision Team, RG Casey Building, Barton, ACT, 0221. Initial comments must be lodged by 15 March.

A Passports Legislation Consultation Group has also been established. Members will be drawn from privacy, human rights, consumer and citizenship groups and from travel, financial and biometrics industries with ex officio participation by Australia’s Privacy Commissioner.

Media inquiries: Chris Kenny +61 02 6277 7500 - Julie McDonald (Departmental) 02 6261 1555

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