A proposed $464 million whole-of-government digital radio network for Tasmanian agencies will benefit first responders, volunteers and members of the public, a parliamentary committee has heard.
The long-awaited TasGRN project has been scrutinised by the Public Works Committee a day after it was revealed the government was in contract negotiations with Telstra to implement the network.
Establishing the network was recommended following an inquiry into the 2013 Dunalley bushfires.
The new network replaces five separate networks and will initially be used by eight core agencies being Tasmania Police, Tasmania Fire Service, Ambulance Tasmania, State Emergency Service, Sustainable Timber Tasmania, Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment, TasNetworks and Hydro Tasmania.
It is expected all eight agencies will have transitioned to the new network by the end of 2023.
Tasmania Police Deputy Commissioner Scott Tilyard told the committee on Monday there had been some frustrations in developing the network, even down to the frequency band which the radio network operates on, which had to be worked through by considering the needs of each government agency.
He said radio networks were mission critical for police, other government agencies and energy providers.
“It’s how we do business in police, day in and day out,” Deputy Commissioner Tilyard said.
In other news:
“Even during the current COVID response, we’ve got people doing compliance checks and they are talking to each other using radios.
“It’s absolutely imperative our people have got good, reliable, secure communications.
“Every member of the Tasmanian public and visitors to our state will benefit from this network.”
Deputy Commissioner Tilyard said the existing networks were approaching end of life, with some established after the 1967 Black Tuesday bushfires, but contingencies were in place to keep the them operational until the new network is constructed.
He said the new digital network would be more secure than the current networks but it could still be scanned by a third-party if required to broadcast in analog mode due to the state’s topography.
DPIPWE strategic projects director Scott Wilson-Haffenden said security issues had been addressed in consultation with the Australian government’s Centre for Critical Infrastructure.
“We’re very comfortable the contract we have in place will deal with matters of national security,” he said.
The three-year construction of the network is expected to create up to 50 jobs which Mr Wilson-Haffenden said would be a mix of Tasmanian and interstate contractors.
In a statement, committee member and Labor emergency management spokeswoman Jen Butler said the state’s lack of a unified radio system was putting first responders and Tasmanians at risk.
“The Liberals have had six years to implement the recommendations from that [2013 Dunalley bushfires] inquiry, but all they’ve managed to do is spend money on consultants,” Ms Butler said.