The protection and welfare of Australians abroad through timely and responsive consular and passport services in specific locations overseas
Program 2.1: Consular and passport services
Support Australians in specific locations overseas through effective consular service, accurate and timely travel advice, practical contingency planning and rapid crisis response.
In specific locations overseas:
- Deliver comprehensive, responsive, high quality consular services to an increasing number of Australian travellers and citizens living overseas, including notarial services and assistance with welfare issues, whereabouts enquiries, arrest or detention matters and medical emergencies.
- Provide high-quality passport services to Australians, including processing new passport applications, registering lost or stolen passports, issuing emergency passports, and detecting passport fraud.
- Undertake effective consular contingency planning for major events or high-risk scenarios, including through regular reviews of procedures and available resources, training of staff and coordination with other government agencies and foreign governments.
The delivery of consular services is effective, efficient, timely and responsive.
Clients are satisfied with the 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.
Consular contingency planning accurately anticipates high-risk events and scenarios. Procedures and networks remain valid and viable, and plans are tested and reviewed regularly.
Austrade supports Australians travelling and working overseas through the delivery of effective, accurate and timely consular and passport services, travel advice, practical contingency planning and rapid crisis response in locations overseas where Austrade has consular management responsibilities.
At 30 June 2012, Austrade operated consulates for the Australian Government in 17 overseas locations, providing a range of services to Australian travellers and Australian nationals living overseas. These services included consular assistance, passport services, notarial acts, medical evacuations, prison visits and general advice.
In addition, using lessons learned from crises managed in 2010–11, Austrade-managed consulates refined contingency planning for major events and improved preparedness for potential high-risk scenarios that may impact on the safety and welfare of Australians overseas, in consultation with other government agencies and foreign governments.
Austrade's consular staff members worked closely with Australian embassies and high commissions in their region, and with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade consular operations and passport operations branches in Canberra, especially when dealing with complex cases.
Table 7 shows the 17 consulates managed by Austrade at 30 June 2012.
Consular and passport services
In 2011–12, Austrade staff provided high-quality and responsive consular advice, assistance and information to 90,763 people, which is 30 per cent lower than the number assisted in 2010–11 (129,592). The number of notarial acts performed increased by 9.8 per cent from 10,146 in 2010–11 to 11,139 in 2011–12.
The number of passport applications received decreased by 7 per cent from 12,990 in 2010–11 to 12,081 in 2011–12.
Accuracy rates for processing passport applications were high, with 98 per cent processed without error. Austrade continued to meet the agreed 10-day turnaround time on passport applications, with 99.4 per cent of applications processed within the required timeframe.
Table 7: Austrade-managed consulates, at 30 June 2012
(a) These consulates are managed by an Honorary Consul.
(b) Austrade's office in Tripoli was not open in 2011–12.
Austrade assists stranded Australian cruise ship passengers
In January 2012, the Costa Concordia cruise ship carrying 3,229 passengers partially sank near the island of Giglio, situated off the Tuscan coast in Italy. Twenty-three Australians were on board.
Consular officers from the Austrade-managed Consulate-General in Milan worked closely with the Australian Embassy in Rome and the local port authorities of Grosseto to assist Australians affected by the incident.
Austrade provided information and support and assisted the Australians' relocation to Genoa and onward travel arrangements for return to Australia.
Austrade's network of consular contacts proved invaluable in providing the support and assistance needed.
Austrade's consular preparation for the Rugby World Cup
Austrade's Consulate-General in Auckland undertook significant preparation for the Rugby World Cup held in New Zealand in September and October 2011.
Planning was underpinned by close engagement with local authorities, the Australian High Commission in Wellington and other agencies in Canberra, including the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and the Australian Federal Police.
An estimated 55,200 Australian rugby players, officials and fans crossed the Tasman Sea for the tournament. In anticipation of an increase to consular and passport workloads, consular resources were increased, and additional consular-trained staff from other offices provided backup when the Australian team played games in Auckland.
Austrade worked closely with DFAT to ensure that the Auckland office was prepared to respond quickly in the event of a crisis. A total of 23 tournament games were played in Auckland, Albany, Whangarei, Hamilton and Rotorua, all within Austrade's area of coverage.
Austrade tests consular contingency plans in Japan
In February 2012, staff at the Austrade-managed consulates in Osaka, Sapporo and Fukuoka, the Austrade office in Tokyo and DFAT staff from Tokyo, met with their counterparts in Canberra via videoconference to test contingency plans.
The exercise strengthened Austrade–DFAT response coordination and helped to ensure that contingency plans incorporated lessons learned from the response to the natural disasters in Japan in 2011.