26 September 2023

Telco’s laws change to save people’s lives

Start the conversation

Police and emergency services are to be able to locate missing people and those at risk of serious harm more quickly under new changes to Australia’s telecommunications legislation.

Announced by the Minister for Communications, Michelle Rowland, the Australia-wide changes to the Telecommunications Act 1997 follow inquests by the Coroners Court of NSW into two tragic and separate cases of missing residents in the State.

Ms Rowland said the changes would better allow telcos to provide law enforcement and emergency services with voluntary information and assistance if it would help prevent a ‘serious’ threat to a person’s life or health.

“This removes the previous requirement for a threat to also be ‘imminent,’ which is often impossible to prove in many cases and will speed up the telcos’ process of providing triangulation services to police,” Ms Rowland said.

“Steps to make changes to the Act were taken after the NSW Deputy State Coroner raised concerns with the Minister for Communications in mid-October 2022 about constraints on law enforcement agencies’ access to information during public safety incidents such as life-threatening situations,” she said.

“We know how time-critical cases of missing persons are, and the passing of this Bill will bolster the powers of law enforcement and emergency services as they work to return missing loved ones to their families and friends.”

Ms Rowland said the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Information Disclosure, National Interest and Other Measures) Bill 2022 was accompanied by the introduction of stronger privacy protections, consent-based safeguards, and oversight measures to ensure that only necessary and potentially life-saving disclosures were made.

She said that in consultation with the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, the Bill also introduced changes to the Act to improve transparency and reporting through more detailed record-keeping of authorised disclosures.

Start the conversation

Be among the first to get all the Public Sector and Defence news and views that matter.

Subscribe now and receive the latest news, delivered free to your inbox.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.