Alarm bells have been set ringing by the federal government’s announcement that it is putting the 000 emergency call service out to tender.
The move is in line with the terms of the Definitive Agreements between Telstra and the government drawn up in 2011 as part of the NBN project. Under those Agreements, Telstra was to remain the Emergency Call Service provider for 20 years, subject to the results of a competitive tender within 5 years.
But CWU officials say the exercise is a waste of time and money and transferring the service away from Telstra would put public safety at risk.
Telstra has had responsibility for 000 since the service was established in 1961 and has consistently met required service benchmarks despite the increasing challenges posed by changes in technology.
Today, for instance, some 67% of calls to 000 come from mobile phones while callers may also potentially use Over the Top voice applications to access the service. These trends mean that it can be difficult to identify the location of the caller.
The government has issued a separate Request for Expressions of Interest to see how such location-related problems can be addressed, with responses due by October 14.
When it comes to overall national coordination of emergency calls, though, the CWU believes the job still should definitely be done by Telstra.
“Telstra has the experience, the proven track record, the technological depth and, not least of all, the skilled workforce to perform this role,” CWU Divisional President Shane Murphy said.
“In this area, it’s the only game in town so it’s a waste of time - and just creates community concern – to make Telstra jump through the hoops of the tendering process.”