Border control and immigration were the big winners in this year's Federal Budget, with $100.8 million allocated to a new centralised passport system and $169.69 million for ongoing maintenance of the Department of Immigration's Systems for People program.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) will receive $100.8 million (including $48.4 million in capital funding) over the next six years to implement the new passport system. $40 million of the capital funding for this will come from the Business-As-Usual Reinvestment fund established as part of the Gershon review.
By the end of the 2009/10 financial year, DFAT predicts that more than 1.7 million passports will have been issued. The department expects this to increase to 2 million by 2012 and increase by 70 to 100 per cent in the next decade.
To account for this increased demand, the new passport IT system will enable large-scale scanning of passport application forms and enable bulk centralised printing of personal information into passports (including biometric chip encoding). The system will also improve fraud case investigation in an effort to reduce identity theft.
The news follows the use of three Australian passports by suspects in the killing of Hamas leader Mahmoud Al Mabhouh in January this year.
The improved efficiencies gained from the new system are expected to save the Federal Government $10.2 million by 2015/16
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship received an additional $169.69 million over the next four years for the completion and ongoing maintenance of its Systems for People program.
The program provides staff with a portal to view client details and history of dealings with the department. The program is expected to be completed in the next financial year. Around $40 million will be spent each following year on maintenance of the system.
As announced in February, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship also received $69.4 million in this year's budget to introduce biometric checks for some international passengers entering Australia. From next year visa applicants may be required to submit fingerprints and facial images, which would be matched against biometric databases.