More than 300 new workers will be hired to speed up Australian passport applications in the wake of “unacceptable” waits.
The number of passport applications has climbed from pre-pandemic levels of up to 9000 a day, to up to 12000 a day, with the number of applications hitting a record 16,400 on Tuesday.
Assistant Foreign Affairs Minister Tim Watts said Australians were now facing a “predictable” crisis that was “the consequence of the previous administration dropping the ball and failing to adequately prepare for the rise in passport applications when borders re-opened.”
“It shouldn’t be Australians who face the repercussions of these errors. While it will take some time to get back on track, we will continue to engage with DFAT [Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade] to make sure the essential resources are delivered,” Watts said.
“The present delays in passport applications, and the lengthy waits to get in contact with the Australian Passport Office, are unacceptable.”
DFAT said processing delays have increased since October and now encourages applicants to expect at least six weeks to acquire their passport. But other prospective tourists claim they have waited eight weeks or more and still have no clue when their papers will come.
Hundreds of applicants waiting for any news faced a wait of up to six hours in Melbourne and Sydney earlier this week in lineups that snaked around the block at the two passport offices.
Watts said he and Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong were working with the government to solve the backlog by expanding the number of processing and call-centre personnel as rapidly as they could be recruited and trained.
“We are building up a new extra contact centre with 35 workers this week and 35 more staff next week,” he said in a statement, adding at least 250 more will be hired in the following several weeks.