To help police and emergency services find missing persons who are at “high risk” of harm, the federal government is rushing to amend mobile phone triangulation laws in parliament.
Under the changes in law, police and emergency services will be given permission to more regularly triangulate the mobile phones of missing people.
The mobile phone triangulation law currently stipulates that there has to be a serious or imminent threat to a missing person’s life and health for the police to use mobile triangulation to find their location.
But last September the NSW deputy coroner urged the communications minister to change the phrasing of the “1997 Telecommunications Act” to lower the standards.
The proposed changes, which will also cover disaster responses, will mean authorities can use mobile triangulation if they believe it will help lessen the threat to a person’s health and life.
Communications Minister Michelle Rowland said that the amendments are critical because they will remove the requirement that the threat to the life of the person be “imminent.”
She said that the requirement may be impossible to show in many cases, particularly in cases of missing people.
"This government believes in a timely response to matters that impact the safety of Australians,” she added.
Amendment of the law was triggered by the disappearance and death of a 36-year-old man in Sydney’s eastern suburbs.
The police completed a helicopter search over the coastline, particularly around Little Bay, to check if they could find a body on the cliffs or in the water.
On June 21st a detective’s request for mobile triangulation was rejected because a chief inspector was not satisfied that there was an “imminent” threat to the missing man’s life.
Deputy State Coroner Erin Kennedy said with the potential success of phone triangulation, so many missing persons could be quickly located, and more lives could potentially be saved. This could also save police resources, public funding, and lessen family distress.