When is a powerful passport not a powerful passport? When it's Australia's.
The latest Passport Index rankings for global mobility have named the Australian passport as second in the list of world's most powerful passport, despite Australians not being allowed to leave their own country without special permission.
Australia came equal second with Germany and Spain, while New Zealand topped the rankings.
The Passport Index, by Arton Capital, gives each country a "mobility score" by adding two figures together - the number of countries for which a passport has visa-free entry and the number it can obtain a visa from on arrival.
New Zealand's mobility score is 136, one above Australia's score of 135.
However, unlike Australians, New Zealanders are not restricted from leaving their country, though they face hotel quarantine upon return, and are having similar troubles to stranded Australians in trying to get back into the country due to available quarantine places and limited flights.
It is a great irony that, while Australians are among the most free in terms of being able to enter other countries, we're among the least free when it comes to leaving our own.
What is the point of a powerful passport if we can't use it? Well, most Australians who have a passport (just 57 per cent of the population according to the Passport Office) are currently unable to use it, the exception is those Australians who are already outside the country.
Vaccinated Australians based in Europe, as reported by Traveller on Saturday, are able to enjoy the northern summer and take holidays to other countries across the continent and beyond.
And then there are the 40,000 Australians still leaving the country every month, with permission from Border Force. Although the vast majority of these departures are now to New Zealand as part of the trans-Tasman travel bubble, there are still about 10,000 departures a month to other destinations.
Meanwhile, the number of Australians applying for or renewing passports in Australia has plummeted, declining 60 per cent in 2020 compared with 2019, as people let their passports expire while they wait for international borders to reopen.
But the rest of the world is moving on, according to Armand Arton, founder and president of Arton Capital.
"It is safe to say that the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic is behind us, as we see more and more countries safely opening up their borders," he said.
Countries that had managed the pandemic most effectively and were now approaching a sense of normality had the largest gains in the mobility scores. The Passport Index mid-year report cited the US and Israel among the biggest improvers, both of which have high rates of vaccination against COVID-19.
There are two high-profile passport indexes, both with different countries ranked top. The Henley Passport Index earlier this year put Japan at the top of the list, with New Zealand at equal seventh, while Australia was equal ninth.
The discrepancies come from slightly different methodologies used by each index, though the top 10 for both contain similar countries.
THE MOST POWERFUL PASSPORTS IN MID-2021
(MS = Mobility Score)
1st New Zealand (+2) Total MS: 136
Joint 2nd Germany (-1), Spain (=2), Australia (+5). Total MS: 135
Joint 3rd Finland (-1), Austria (+1), Italy (+1), Switzerland (+1), Rep. of Ireland (+1), Japan (+3), South Korea (+2), USA (+16), UAE (+11). Total MS: 134
Joint 4th Sweden (-2), Netherlands (=4), Denmark (-1), Belgium (+1), France (=4), Portugal (=4), Luxembourg (=4), Czech Republic (+2), Hungary (+1). Total MS: 133
Joint 5th Malta (+2), Slovenia (+1), Greece (-1), Poland (=5), Slovakia (+2), UK (-1). Total MS: 132
Joint 6th Singapore (+7), Norway (-3), Lithuania (-1). Total MS: 131
Joint 7th Estonia (-1), Latvia (-1). Total MS: 130
Joint 8th Iceland (-2), Canada (+10). Total MS: 129
Joint 9th Cyprus (-1), Croatia (=9), Liechtenstein (-1), Romania (=9). Total MS 128
10th Bulgaria (=10). Total MS: 127
Source: The Passport Index, Arton Capital