[LINK] Wikileak founder's passport cancelled

Roger Clarke Roger.Clarke at xamax.com.au
Mon May 17 15:05:41 AEST 2010

I think we need to approach this one with caution.

It *is* possible that this is a very grave matter.  In which case, a 
great many people (including one or more Civil Liberties 
organisations) will sweep into action, and the Government will end up 
scoring an own goal.

But my suspicion is that the reporter has used language very loosely, 
and this has led to all manner of interpretations that wouldn't be 
supported by the facts, if only we could work out what they are.

What legal capacity does any government agency have to:
(a)  "confiscate" a passport?
(b)  "cancel" a passport?

That's distinct from an administrative delay in checking the physical 
passport (especially if it is actually bruised and battered) and in 
checking the data on the system that comes up for that passport and 

The Passports Office FAQ appears to be silent on the relevant matters:

By trawling the SiteIndex, I found this partially-relevant page:

My understanding was that it requires a court order for a person to 
"surrender" their passport, but it turns out that's wrong:

"Demand for surrender" is empowered in ss. 23-26:

And there's a very strangely-structured "cancellation request" 
provision in s.12, buried in the Part that deals with issue of 
But prima facie it looks to be ineffectual, because it doesn't 
actually authorise "cancellation" or even "demand for surrender".

Note that this takes places against the background of a new Passports 
Act that the Howard Government put to Parliament and that the cowards 
in the Opposition didn't oppose.

The intention and effect of the new Act was to sweep away decades of 
common law protections that had arisen over the years to interpret 
and control the provisions of the old Act.

Roger Clarke                                 http://www.rogerclarke.com/

Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd      78 Sidaway St, Chapman ACT 2611 AUSTRALIA
                    Tel: +61 2 6288 1472, and 6288 6916
mailto:Roger.Clarke at xamax.com.au                http://www.xamax.com.au/

Visiting Professor in the Cyberspace Law & Policy Centre      Uni of NSW
Visiting Professor in Computer Science    Australian National University

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