25 February 2004
To: Ian Kemish, First Assistant Secretary, Public Diplomacy, Consular and Passports Division, Department of Foreign Affairs
Subject: Follow-Up re Passports Act Consultation Process
Re the meeting last Monday, congratulations on a well-run event, at which each of us had the opportunity to lay out our areas of concern.
I thought it might be useful if I were to indicate what I understand the key outcomes to have been, to confirm what I said, and to add a couple of further comments arising from the later parts of the event.
Regards ... Roger
1. Next Steps
I understand that Adrian is to provide us with the following, in written form:
The next meeting was pencilled in for Thu 18 Mar (presumably in Canberra?). Given that this is only 3-1/2 weeks away, and everyone has full diaries, early warning would be very helpful.
2. The Key Points That I Made on APF's Behalf
(1) We have many specific concerns, some about process, some about product. We have communicated some of those in our Preliminary Submission.
(2) A first important question is about the timetable. Apart from 26 Oct 04 (the US deadline), what other fixed dates are there?
The answer was that the intended implementation dates are 26 Oct 04 and 1 Jan 05, and hence the target is for a Bill in the House in the winter session, which is 11 May to 24 June : http://www.aph.gov.au/Senate/work/sitting2004.pdf
This is a critical issue, because a process can only be described as being 'consultative' if there is a realistic possibility that the outcomes will directly affect the proposal.
(3) We have serious concern about the use of the term "premier identity document", and the several mentions of needing to facilitate its use by other organisations, including Registrars of Births, Immigration, and banks.
(4) Another matter of serious concern is data exchange conducted in the context of passports. A whole raft of exemptions and exceptions is built into the Privacy Act, and most of the data exchanges are not subject to privacy protections at all
I repeated the APF submission that it would be a good idea to remove all of those exemptions and exceptions, bring these data exchanges under the Act, ensure that there were appropriately balanced authorisations in place, subject them to the purview of the Privacy Commissioner, and provide him with the resources needed to monitor compliance.
(5) It was agreed that the discussion about biometrics needed to be conducted immediately, because of the tight timeframe.
In order for the biometrics aspects of the proposal to be discussed in a meaningful manner, the following information is needed
i a clear statement of what the proposition is, in sufficient detail to enable analysis. Bob's presentation is a start, but a formal, much more detailed, and written description is needed
ii an evaluation of the technology. Reference had been made to research already undertaken. We need documentation of that research that we can review, because this is not the kind of thing that can be chatted about in a meeting
iii evidence that the proposed application of the technology will work. This is especially important given that there is plenty of evidence that it will *not* work
iv disclosure of the outcomes of the impact assessment that must surely have been performed before a Bill goes before Parliament
This information is a condition precedent to a meaningful consultative process in relation to the biometric proposal.
3. Additional Comments
With the exception of the biometrics matter, we would think that most topics could be addressed quite quickly, once detailed information about the proposals is made available.
There is sometimes reluctance on the part of officials to make Drafting Instructions available; but that is the level of detail needed, especially on such matters as "likely to engage in [or] is charged with ... offences under the new Australian Passports Act".
And may I once again assure you that the APF will be pleased to facilitate, rather than oppose, proposals to ensure that effective mechanisms are in place relating to matters involving demonstrable threat to human safety.
As regards measures of the scale of the problems that are being addressed, we would appreciate the following information: