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Thursday, 22 September 2011
Page: 6937

Emergency Short Message Service

(Question No. 1034)


Senator Abetz asked the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations, upon notice, on 29 August 2011:

(1) Has the department contracted out the emergency short message service (SMS); if so, what is the cost of the contract. (2) What is the purpose of this emergency service. (3) Under what kinds of emergencies will an SMS be deployed. (4) What is the standard text message sent. (5) What is the anticipated amount of text messages that will be sent.


Senator Chris Evans: The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

1.   The Department has contracted the emergency communications service through Telstra as part of the whole of government panel contract arrangement (established and managed by the Department of Finance and Deregulation). The cost for this service is $237,124.80 over three years, which includes a onetime set up fee and a monthly hosting/access fee. The usage (e.g. sending SMS) is charged at a separate set fee.

2.   To ensure continued capability if existing departmental systems become unserviceable or to speed up communications in the time of a continuity incident. This arrangement supports the business continuity and disaster recovery arrangements for the continued availability of critical services and assets, as required by the Australian Government Protective Security Policy Framework (Section 5.11), and outlined in the Australian/New Zealand Standard: Business continuity— Managing disruption-related risk (AS/NZS 5050:2010), and the Australian National Audit Office better practice guide, Business Continuity Management: Building resilience in public sector entities published in June 2009.

3.   The service has been obtained to enhance the Department’s capacity to speedily respond to incidents, in particular floods, bushfires and information and communication outages. It provides the Department’s continuity coordination team the ability to contact key personnel and communicate critical information via SMS, voicemail, email, and conference call in a timely way to respond to an emergency. The service also enables prompt communications during other incidents and disruptions that may occur on weekends or after hours and affect the Department’s business and services.

4.   The text message vary dependent upon the severity and type of emergency, impact to the departmental staff and services, the people involved and the purpose of the text message. The messaging is configurable by the Department.

5.   The amount of text messages depends upon the severity and type of emergency and potential impact to departmental staff and services.