Contributed by Ugly
The Turnbull government is going ahead to privatise the 000 emergency calls service, even though its own review, released last year, recommended holding off, because of a risk that it could reduce the ability of the service to operate well.
From the government side, it is suggested that the service is not being privatised. It may be that assets are not being specifically sold off. In practical terms, the difference is that they will continue to be paid for and maintained by the taxpayer, as they are turned over to be used as the private property of a private business.
This is still privatisation and to call it anything else is a load of rubbish.
The service currently operates through the now privately owned, Telstra network. This is likely to continue, since Telstra has the best coverage across the whole of Australia.
Holding off was recommended, on the basis that there needs to be a changeover to new technology that matches the fact that most calls are now made from mobile phones. Modernisation would allow the transfer to an updated digital system, which is integrated with GPS, to locate the place of an emergency.
Such a changeover would bring in an IP based telecommunications environment during the next 5 to 10 years, replacing the circuit switched voice network now in operation.
A decision has not yet been made on how this is going to be achieved and what the specific goals are. The presented argument for holding back was that there needs to be better clarity “on the desired future directions of triple zero,” with the suggestion that “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”.
In its eagerness to unload the service to private providers, the government is in no mood to wait for even this. A tender has gone out to reconstruct the service, before the needs have been properly worked out. Now a different tender is to go out to find an operator.
This is going to cost taxpayers dearly. An absence of clarity, as to what needs to be done and lack of transparency, is a recipe for the private sector to maximise its reward in return for the least effort.
More important still is that even if the changeover had been complete, it will remain that taxpayer dollars will still cover the operation. It will not save money and will cost more, because a profit margin must be factored in. No doubt this will be locked into any contract, and we will not be allowed to see the details, because of the commercial in confidence argument.
The usual argument of bringing in a competitive market does not apply, because there van only be one integrated service.
Privatisation will create a private monopoly, which will be run as cheaply and possible and the focus on protecting lives will become secondary to the focus on maximising profit. This is the main argument against privatisation and in this case, it has the potential to put lives at risk.