The Turnbull government is calling for expressions of interest to run the national 000 emergency hotline, ignoring the advice of its own review into the service that to do so now was premature.
The 2014 review, published last year, recommended the government postpone the 2016 tender process for up to two years so “there is greater clarity on the desired future directions of triple zero” now that two-thirds of emergency calls are made from mobile phones.
“The inclusion of capability to reliably receive and automatically forward more accurate location-based data (coordinates) from mobile emergency callers to Emergency Service Organisations should be a priority in the development of the Triple Zero service,” the review said.
“The combination of Australia’s broader current transition from a circuit switched voice network to an IP-based telecommunications environment during the next five to ten years, and the expected continued growth of mobile services, presents a significant opportunity to rethink the end to end delivery of the Triple Zero service.”
With so many questions still unanswered, the review recommended delaying the 2016 tender because “without such clarity may place at risk the current successful delivery model and could also result in a protracted period of negotiation with the successful bidder, the current operator and other jurisdictions”.
The Department of Communications is currently seeking location technology solutions for 000 calls in a separate tender, which closes on October 14.
The government said calling for EOIs is “an important step in ensuring Triple Zero remains a highly-trusted and reliable service”.
Communications minister Mitch Fifield announced the tender today, saying the EOI process was “the latest step in ensuring all Australians have access to a world-class service which can keep pace with new and innovative technologies”.
The service has been operating since 1961, operated by Telstra, but still only takes voice calls, and cannot accept SMS or video calls. A number of countries are currently working on how to adapt to the smartphone era, but a solution has yet to be found.
The review warned that Telstra’s entrenched incumbency would make it difficult to find a new operator. Telstra has operated the current contract since 2011.
Submissions for the tender close on November 25. If not alternative bids are received, Telstra will continue in the role until 2032.
Correction: The initial version of this story said the Turnbull government planned to privatise the service. This was incorrect.