On this day in 1981, the front page of The Canberra Times featured a story about thousands of Australian passports being stolen each year, possibly as part of drug trafficking operations.
About 5000 passports were lost or stolen each year, mainly in south-east Asia, the Royal Commission of Inquiry into drug trafficking heard.
Then-commissioner Donald Stewart said it was possible Australian passports were being used by people to travel around the main drug-producing countries and that those people then used a genuine Australian passport to re-enter the country.
"Because of the looseness of the system it would be impossible to know how many illegal passports there are," he said.
The director of the passport section of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Mr Kevin Gray, said under questioning that the department detected only about six "recycled" passports a year. He said it was possible that people had sold their passports or swapped them for drugs and then reported them stolen.
Mr Stewart said it appeared easy for people to illegally obtain passports even when their names were included on a passport register outlining criminal conviction, suspected terrorist activities or court orders restraining movement from the country. Mr Gray said they didn't check the forms unless there was cause as they didn't have adequate staffing to do so.