The federal government will be rolling out automated departure eGates at each of Australia's eight major international airports from mid-2015.
A total of 62 departure eGates are expected to be deployed nationally, and will be allocated to each airport based on traveller volume and greatest areas of risk. This will be in addition to the existing 61 arrival SmartGate terminals that are currently operating at airports nationwide.
Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Scott Morrison said that the rollout is part of the government's AU$158 million commitment in additional funding for its counter-terrorism immigration and border protection.
"Implementation of the automated departures eGates across our airports is an important investment in border management, providing legitimate, law-abiding travellers with an experience that is seamless, low-touch, and high-tech, greatly advancing our national security and border protection measures," he said.
"eGate technology ensures front-line officers can facilitate travellers more efficiently, with less manual intervention, enabling them more time to focus on traveller interactions, intelligence gathering, enforcement, and targeting activity, which are key to preventing threats at the border."
One eGate has been on trial at Brisbane airport since July, and works by scanning a person's passport and matching the passport image to a live image that is taken at the eGate using facial biometric technology. If the two images match, and the person passes other immigration checks, the eGate will open and allow the person to exit.
During the first phase of the trial, the eGates will capture information about people and will open for people to exit regardless of the result, but they will then be manually processed by a Customs and Border Protection officer for clearance.
According to Morrison, the biggest difference between the existing SmartGates and the new eGates will be the absence of the small SmartGate kiosks that currently appear prior to the arrival eGate, and instead the new departure eGates will perform the role of both the kiosk and the gate.
Additionally, at the start of this month, travellers on board Air New Zealand and Qantas international flights will be invited to use the trial eGates when departing Australia.
The federal government also announced that work is under way to expand the range of nationalities that are able to use SmartGate terminals when they arrive at any of Australia's eight major international airports. Currently, only holders of an ePassport from Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the United States, or Singapore are eligible to use the terminals.
Over the next 12 months, a series of trials are planned to expand access to SmartGate to a range of nationalities such as Canadian, Irish, Malaysian, Japanese, Chinese, Indian, and French.
"As the number of travellers arriving at Australian airports continues to increase, it's important that our officers have access to the best tools and technology to focus on high-risk travellers at the border, while facilitating a smooth and trouble-free experience for legitimate travellers," Morrison said.