Can an Australia Passport Be Cancelled by The Department?

Case Summary – Singh and Minister for Foreign Affairs [2019] AATA 36 (18 January 2019)


In this case, the Tribunal set aside the decision made by the delegate of the Minister for Foreign Affairs to affirm the earlier decision to cancel the Australian passport of Mr Singh.


Mr Singh was issued an Australian passport in 2015. The passport was cancelled by the Minister in 2016 following notification made on the Australian Passport Office website that the passport had been lost or stolen. Mr Singh claims that he did not make the notification, nor was it made on his behalf. He says that at all times, the passport was within his possession and was not lost or stolen. He is seeking a review of a decision by a delegate of the Minister affirming the decision to cancel the passport.


What Does the Law Say?


Section 22 of the Australian Passports Act 2005 (Cth) (“the Act”) provides, in part:

(1)     Subject to section 22AA, the Minister may cancel an Australian travel document.

(2)     Without limiting subsection (1), the Minister may cancel an Australian travel document that has been issued to a person if:

(b)  the document has been lost or stolen; or


Section 48 of the Act provides that a decision to cancel an Australian travel document (which includes a passport) is a “reviewable decision”. A person affected by a reviewable decision may apply in writing to the Minister for review of the reviewable decision (section 49). An applicant who is dissatisfied with the Minister’s decision review may apply to this Tribunal for a review of that decision.


On review, the Tribunal may affirm, vary or set aside the decision being reviewed by it: see section 43 of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act 1975 (Cth).


How Did the Tribunal Decide?


The Tribunal cannot agree that the words “the document has been lost or stolen” should be interpreted to mean “the document has been reported to have been lost or stolen”. To do so would be to disregard the clear meaning of the words of the statute. In this matter, the Tribunal found that at no relevant time was Mr Singh’s passport either lost or stolen. It follows that the discretion to cancel the passport was not enlivened under section 22(2)(b).


Key Takeaways


Keep your passport properly, otherwise, it may be cancelled by the Department.


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