Travellers are being forced to line up for days to resolve issues at Perth’s passport office as the Commonwealth Government tries to clear a growing backlog of claims.
Camp chairs, sprawling queues and security guards managing the fiasco have become common sights outsight outside the Australian Passport Office’s William Street outpost in the CBD.
People have been arriving at the office daily from 5.30am to secure an early spot in the queue before the APO’s doors open at 8.30am.Staff have turned to asking people to leave the area – and return once they’ve received text message instructions – to ease tensions with surrounding businesses who are growing frustrated with the queues, it is understood.
Assistant Foreign Affairs Minister Tim Watts blamed the previous Morrison Government for the blowout in wait times, claiming it did not prepare for the “expected” surge of passport applications following the reopening of Australia’s international borders. An additional 1100 staff have been promised for the APO by September to handle the surge in claims and applications.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has warned people to expect a six-week wait for passport claims to be processed. “We are experiencing high demand for passports since the reopening of Australia’s international border,” DFAT said in a statement earlier this month.
“In the first three months of this year, we issued nearly 400,000 passports, more than double the total number we issued over the same period in 2021.”
Joondalup mother-of-two Louisa Walker has been waking up at 4.45am to secure an early spot in the line, hoping to speak to staff about her eight-year-old daughter’s passport, which she applied for in early March.
Ms Walker and her husband are hoping to travel to the United Kingdom with their two their young daughters to see their elderly and ill parents for the first time in three years.
She was turned away from the APO Perth office for the third time on Friday, without her daughter’s passport.
The family has flights booked for Wednesday.
“My youngest daughter’s passport came back within three weeks, but they told me my eldest’s (passport) has been ‘lost in the system’,” Ms Walker told The West Australian.
“So I waited a while, thinking it would turn up, but then a month ago I got a bit nervous and rang the help line. “After six hours on hold they told me it had all been approved but been lost in a print queue, they escalated it to find out.“I rang back a week later and was told ‘that has been escalated on an old system, so that hasn’t been flagged with anybody, I’ll flag it now with a human in Perth’.”
Ms Walker said she was told yet again, her request had been filed by staff on yet another “old system”, prompting her to visit the APO in person.
She was told by staff on Friday her daughter’s passport was stuck in Adelaide and she would not be able to speak to APO staff until receiving further written instructions.
Others have shared similar experiences of changing instructions from APO staff as well as being sent away from the Perth office after lining up for hours on multiple different days.