The Albanese Government has promised to add an additional 300 staff members to tackle the lengthy wait times Aussies face renewing their passports in the post-pandemic landscape.
An additional call centre is being set up with an initial 35 staff on deck this week with 35 more to be added next week and a minimum additional 250 staff over the next six months to address the current pressures and delays.
There has been a surge in applications and renewals from the pre-COVID levels of 7,000-9,000 applications to the current 10,000-12,000 per day. Tuesday saw a record 16,417 applications lodged.
People are usually told to allow up to six weeks for a passport, but delays have seen that time extend by weeks and even months for some.
9 News footage showed long lines outside the Sydney branch of the Australian Passport Office, with some saying they waited up to five hours.
Dean Long, CEO of the Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA), said the delays in approval and delivery for both new applications and renewals have created significant stress for travelling Australians and travel agents.
“Our members have been dealing with a rapid uptick in bookings from the moment the international travel ban was lifted,” Long said.
“Unfortunately for some, the non-arrival of their Passport within the stated timeframe has meant not only rescheduling but, in some cases, cancellations.
“While the situation will eventually level out, these additional resources will go a long way towards solving the current problems.”
Tim Watts, Australia’s assistant Foreign Affairs Minister told the Sydney Morning Herald the problem was the “predictable” result of “the previous government having dropped the ball and failing to properly plan”.
“It shouldn’t be Australians who suffer the consequences of these failures. While it will take some time to get back on track, we will continue to work with DFAT [Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade] to make sure the required resources are delivered,” he said.
“The current delays in passport applications, and the long waits to get in touch with the Australian Passport Office, are unacceptable.”