the state

Each time a child needs a new passport, a full application must be completed.   


My children need to renew their passports. I searched online, found the relevant information and soon realised a trip to our local post office was needed to pick up a form. We did so, filled them out, marvelling at the duplication and had all the relevant parts signed by witnesses etc..

It was surprising that, even though the kids have held passports for five years and travelled extensively, were born in NSW and lived in the same house for almost a decade, that we needed their original birth certificates again but this was not at all a problem as we had used these many times before and they were safely stowed in a special drawer at home.

Then we went to the Post Office for our passport interview.

We presented the exact same birth certificates that we used for their medicare cards, school enrolment and PREVIOUS PASSPORT APPLICATION successfully but were declined. Apparently, the pretty border around the edges means that these two original documents issued by the state are ‘commemorative birth certificates’ and no longer acceptable to the Australian Passport Office.

The staff at the Post Office refused to process our application as ‘they would be fined’. I asked to see the fine print and yes, indeed, it says as much about ‘commemorative’ documents issued by the state, at a price, are ineligible. In fact, I could not see anything to indicate that the certificate was a commemorative one (except it had a fancy border). The staff assured me that it was. I pointed out that we could use our passports as ID rather than our birth certificates so how is it logical the kids could not. Of course, the staff could do nothing. That is how our world works.

flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

We had no choice but to go to Service NSW to apply for birth certificates. They would take a month to process unless we paid $150 for the express service. I noted on the form that ‘commemorative’ versions were available.

The staff at the Post Office and Service NSW both mentioned the changed world and the impact of ‘terrorism’ as ways of explaining this insane level of managerialismThis annoyed me more than the actual issue. There was no percentage in screaming or making any factual points about the statistical realities re: The War on Terror but I certainly could sense myself losing control.

In fact, the experience – although it may seem like just another “First World Problem” – has made me desperate enough to quote CS Lewis 😉

“I live in the Managerial Age, in a world of “Admin.” The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid “dens of crime” that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voices. Hence, naturally enough, my symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state or the office of a thoroughly nasty business concern.” C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

The Bigger Picture

The citizen’s job is to be rude – to pierce the comfort of professional intercourse by boorish expressions of doubt.  JOHN RALSTON SAUL

I have mentioned several times over the years at this blog that John Ralston Saul is the most prescient of writers. His Massey Lectures in 1995 and subsequent book, The Unconscious Civilisation, described how are democracy and the individual were being seriously undermined by the “C-word”, corporatism. The omniscience of mass media and the relentless focus on terrorism has led to citizens accepting all kinds of changes to our society post-9/11 that has been accentuated by the War on Terror and now, illogically, it seems like we are continuing to strangle ourselves with laws, regulation and rules that destroy the very freedoms they were designed to protect.

Citizens must complain about aspects of our systems, in a democracy, that are wrong.  This is, although symptomatic of larger concerns, a minor issue I know. However, I will fill in the forms to complain with every agency involved, contact the local member of parliament and register my disdain with whoever will listen. I know these will all be processed and nothing change, unless you do something, each time our society has it wrong, too!

What extra layers of bureaucracy have you experienced in recent years?

Featured image: flickr photo by Darcy Moore shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license



    • Jen Baxter

    • 9 years ago

    Had a similar experience a few months ago.
    Firstly needed to lodge a form with the RMS (RTA…another of life’s little annoyances, government departments changing their acronyms every couple of years, like DET to DEC and back again). Anyway, had to lodge an official Working With Children clearance form to get a number (despite being employed as a public school teacher for almost 20 years and being gone to do that!) Anyway, needed a number to manage a NSW sporting team. Turns out the name on my driver’s licence is not official, as the correct marriage certificate has never been produced. (Again, the apparent commemorative one that got us home loans and passports 15 years ago is no longer acceptable.)
    Went to the NSW Births, Deaths and Marriages office the next day as coincidentally we also needed new passports for an upcoming family holiday and discovered that not only was our marriage certificate not able to be produced, it turns out there is no record of us having being married in the first place!
    Despite my husband’s cheeky grins of “Woohoo! Free escape clause!” we were able to eventually context the church where we were married 15 years ago, discover that our paperwork had never been lodged by the then current Dean, who was apparently too find of the drink, and therefore didn’t complete his paperwork. Luckily there was a register of the actual marriage in the church registration books and they were able to provide one for B,D & M.
    Some weeks later, now officially married, we too attended the Post Office to have passport photos taken and were told our 3 year old couldn’t wear her pink headband for the photo (a headband that NEVER comes off mind you, not for baths, sleep, anything!) Religious head dress is allowed we were told, not headbands for little girls.
    (My friend jokingly refused to sign the back of the photos to verify they were of who we were saying they were, as “No pink headband, that’s not Maddie!”)
    Eventually, some several weeks after this process began, our passports were processed. They arrived in 3 separate bundles on 3 separate days, mine being a week after the most recently received and less than 48 business hours before they were required for our trip!
    Yes, managerialiam is alive and well, as is terrorism coincidentally.

    • Jen Baxter

    • 9 years ago

    My apologies for the autocorrect typos and lack of proofreading before posting that comment!

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