Friday, 4 August 2006

The Great Passport Fiasco : August 4th Edition

Salvo #2, and a formal Declaration of War:
Dear Sir/Madam,

In accordance with ADMINISTRATIVE DECISIONS (JUDICIAL REVIEW) ACT 1977 - SECT 13, please furnish a statement in writing setting out the findings on material questions of fact, referring to the evidence or other material on which those findings were based, and giving the reasons for the decision not to grant my passport application.

Yours Sincerely

Zoe Ellen Brain, BSc MInfoTech(Distinction)

Note the omissions.

It was my intent to give them another chance, to point out the consequences of their actions to them, to allow them to change their minds before legal action was taken.

But, after taking legal advice, I was advised not to telegraph my punches. There's been no evidence of "good faith" high up the food chain, nor a willingness to do anything other than the absolute minimum. I still haven't been informed in writing of the refusal, for example, so can't use that as a lever to get an Australian Declaratory Visa with Immigration. But thanks to the good offices of the case officer, I now know how to get that, and rather more.

I delivered it by hand at 1530 today, at the Australian Passport Office's head office. The 28-day period for them to reply therefore starts today, rather than in 3 days time.

It was genuinely a coincidence that the people concerned had all left early, and that they won't actually see it until Monday. Well, that's not my fault, I delivered it well before Close of Business.

Now for the flanking attack.

Immediately afterwards, I headed for the ACT regional office of the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs. I figured a copy of the letter demanding to know the reasons for my passport refusal just might be enough to convince the dreaded Immigration Bureaucrats that they should give me an Australian Declaratory Visa for my UK passport.

Talk about chalk and cheese.

They were helpful, trying to find ways within the labyrinthine Immigration Act to make things happen in my favour. Suggesting things I could do, like getting my Citizenship Certificate changed, they got the right forms, photocopied all the documents needed and certified them so I wouldn't have to... and all late on a Friday Afetrnoon when everyone just wanted to go home. They stayed back late, photocopying, looking up databases, consulting with head office on the phone, and I confess I shed a few tears simply because they were so supportive.

Instead of being treated by the organisation as some sort of subhuman that they just wanted to dissappear, I was treated with extra consideration, as someone who had more difficulties on her plate than most.

That's the Australian Public Service that I know. The APO's mandarins really are some nightmarishly abberant transphobic organ within the APS.

There's many a slip, but it looks like I'll be able to get back into Australia on my UK passport one way or another. The Immigration people even had the imagination to suggest that since DFAT couldn't prove my Citizenship, there was nothing to stop Immigration from giving me a permanent re-entry visa not available to citizens.

I have a backup to the backup as well. The President of the ANU Students Union got involved when I talked with the ANUSU lawyer, and she has some heavy-duty political contacts. She was also present at the presentation I gave about Intersex some time ago to the Ally Network. My bet is that one day she'll become a Minister, like others I have gone to school or University with, like Malcolm Turnbull, or Tony Abbot. I wonder if she'll remember, when I'm 70 years old?

I'll be pursuing the passport issue through the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, regardless of my personal ability to return. Someone's got to make a stand, and circumstances have given me a far better chance than anyone else. Much as I'd like a quiet life, looks like it's my turn on the firing line. So be it. I can't stand the thought of someone without my resources being stuck in a similar position. It was bad enough for me, after all.

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