It was seven degrees at 4am on Tuesday when Nadine Bolton and her husband joined the queue at the Sydney passport office.
They were there to renew their son’s passport ahead of a trip to the Maldives, having submitted their application more than 16 weeks ago.
“The line hasn’t moved at all, I think two people have just gone in, but there’s people being turned away now. We came here from Newcastle to inquire after 16 weeks of trying to get a passport. So I am not leaving without a passport,” said Bolton, as she shielded herself from the cold breeze.
The days may be shorter and the weather may have gotten a bit chillier but the wait to get a new passport in Sydney is still just as long. Weeks on from when the first queues began to form outside the city’s passport office, the situation remains as dire as ever.
The Daily Telegraph reported on Tuesday that more staff and streamlined processes would were introduced in the hope of cutting the wait time from six hours to 90 minutes by the end of the week.
The source told the newspaper that similar changes introduced in Melbourne had resulted in wait times being cut from four hours to just 60 minutos. The moves are set to coincide with a number of new appointments announced la semana pasada incluso 320 call centre workers and 300 processing staff set to start this week.
On the ground, sin emabargo, there is still very little reprieve from the cold, long waiting lines in sight. At around 8am on Thursday morning the lines at the Sydney office appeared to be frozen with very little movement taking place.
Bar worker, Ben Luton skipped a shift to make the journey from Wollongong in a desperate last ditch attempt to get his passport ahead of a trip to the Netherlands on Friday.
He said he had come to the office “hoping for the best” after multiple attempts to contact the department by phone. “ I was on hold for two and half hours yesterday before they just hung up on me”, él dijo, before adding that he would drive to the passport office in Canberra if he wasn’t able to get his passport today.
La semana pasada, the assistant minister for foreign affairs, Tim Watts, said the wait times were due to a lack of foresight and planning from the previous government. However attempts to remedy the situation have failed to translate into faster and more efficient processing times.
“The state governments can organise to get people’s PCR tests returned in 24 hours but we can’t get a passport back in three months,” said Brett Newman, who had missed work to try get a passport for his son ahead of a trip to Indonesia in two weeks.
“The federal minister for foreign affairs, stood up last week and said the vast majority of passport applications have been processed within six weeks and that people should look to use the fast track option,” said Newman.
“But if you put your application in three months ago, o incluso 10 weeks ago, the expectation would reasonably be, that you will get your passport as you put your application in with plenty of time. You shouldn’t have to fast-track.”
Frustration with the system was rife among people in the queue. Sales and marketing professional, Ravinder Vashisht, said the inefficiencies started right at the door.
“No one was telling you any information when you arrived. Like at least put some information or signs telling people this line is for the inquiries and this one is for picking up the passports," él dijo.
Vashisht had taken a day off work after receiving a text that his newborn baby’s passport was ready for collection. He says he would have had it posted if the wait for postage was not so long and was hoping to save some time and have his questions answered in person after attempts on the phone had failed.
“Nowadays they’re changing everything to self-service, they are decreasing the staff and saving money and now they want us to do their jobs. When I go through the phone hotline and try to speak to a person I just get an automated message saying I will receive an email in six weeks.
“There should be a person you can talk to about your application, otherwise what is the point of running this hotline?"
“This is not a way of working.”