From 1 July 2017, travellers leaving Australia were no longer required to complete an
Outgoing Passenger Card.
For more than 50 years Outgoing Passenger Cards were used as a source of data for official population estimates. These statistics played a crucial role in determining the distribution of GST revenue and the number of seats in the House of Representatives for each state and territory.
However, with the annual number of cross-border movements expected to reach 50 million by 2020, collecting Outgoing Passenger Cards at the border was no longer considered efficient or in line with Government direction towards automated border clearance and digitisation of manual processes.
In 2015, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) – now the Department of Home Affairs – commenced plans to discontinue paper-based Outgoing Passenger Cards. In anticipation of the cessation of the outgoing passenger cards, the ABS and DIBP worked closely together to ensure statistical requirements were taken into account and, with support from the Australian Government Departments of Health and Human Services an alternative data source was identified.
“Fortunately for Home Affairs, ABS already had a strong appetite for finding new and better ways to collect data … I guess you could say that’s “business as usual” for the ABS. Home Affairs was able to harness this readiness for change from ABS and create a superior outcome for government, industry and the travelling population“
– Melissa Bennett , A/g Assistant Secretary , Traveller Branch, Department of Home Affairs
The main solution was to use a range of existing electronic data collected by DIBP about Australians travelling overseas. However, for a small proportion of cross-border movements, state of residence was missing from existing DIBP data sources, and this information is now obtained by other means.
By collaborating across government to make better use of existing public sector data, the ABS can continue to produce high quality official statistics to inform Australia’s important decisions. The work undertaken by the ABS to implement the new population system came at a cost to the ABS within existing resourcing.
Early feedback from travellers is that they are enjoying the shorter queues and the faster processing times as a result of the discontinuation of Outgoing Passenger Cards.
In recognition of the successful innovation to remove the Outgoing Passenger Card while retaining the critical data collected, delivering over one million hours of time back to the travelling public, the Department of Home Affairs was successful in winning the Judges’ Award in the IPAA 2018 Public Sector Innovation Awards. The ABS is proud to have contributed to this achievement and recognition of successful innovation.