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Thursday, 23 September 1999
Page: 10492

Mr Kerr asked the Minister representing the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, upon notice, on 25 August 1999:

Does the Government have plans to encourage the development of a nationally integrated emergency service communications system, including the co-ordination of police, fire and other emergency services; if so, what strategy will the Government pursue; if not, why not.

Mr McGauran (Arts and the Centenary of Federation) —The Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts has provided the following answer to the honourable member's question:

Telstra, in its role as the emergency call person (ECP) under the Telecommunications (Consumer Protection and Service Standards) Act 1999, already coordinates national emergency service organisations through its administration of the 000 emergency service.

However, the honourable member's question could relate to either or both of two discrete matters: the Australian Secure Network (ASNET), or the arrangements pertaining to the 000 emergency service.

In relation to ASNET, which appears to be the real focus of the honourable member's question, this is a matter which falls within the portfolio of the Minister for Justice and Customs, and I refer Mr Kerr to the Minister's answer to Question on Notice 882 which was tabled on [date].

In relation to 000 arrangements, the Government considers that the provision of effective and reliable 000 call service is vitally important. This was recognised in the drafting of the Telecommunications Act 1997. Part 12 of the Telecommunications Act 1997 provided a comprehensive statutory framework for the provision of the 000 service. This is now been replicated in Part 8 of the new Telecommunications (Consumer Protection and Service Standards) Act 1999 (the Act).

Within this framework, the Australian Communications Authority (ACA) is responsible for ensuring that the 000 emergency service is effective and reliable. The ACA is required to designate a person to be the emergency call person (ECP) and determine arrangements for the provision of emergency call services. Amongst other matters, in determining emergency call arrangements the ACA must have regard to the objectives that

• as far as practicable, a common system is used to transfer calls made to an emergency service number to an emergency service organisation;

• from the perspective of an ordinary end-user of a standard telephone service, there appears to be a single national emergency call system; and

• the objective that reasonable community expectations for the handling of calls to emergency service numbers are met.

Telstra is the ECP and service requirements are in place under the Telecommunications (Emergency Call Services) Determination 1997.

As the ECP, Telstra's role is essentially to answer and transfer calls to emergency services organisations as appropriate. Telstra works closely with emergency service organisations in performing this role. Once the call is transferred the emergency services organisation deals with the 000 caller directly. Emergency services and their communications systems are the responsibility of each State. I understand emergency services already have their own established communications systems.