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Views on the growth in Australian Call Canters.

Before September 1996 the Australian Call Centre industry was small and dominated by a selected few industries- telecommunications, credit cards, airlines and car-hire & taxi companies. As part of trade liberalisations the Howard Government removed import restrictions on Telecommunication Equipment. This rule had been established to protect local producers of such equipment, and required that any imports must have a 40% local content. According to sources in Canberra this rule had been implemented in the 60's to protect Telecom Australia and its preferred suppliers ( NEC, Ericsson, Nortel to name a few) and to create and protect Australian jobs. Australia then had maybe 800 call centres with possibly 10,000 employees. The technology was really Stone Age dominated by one major vendor Telstra. I have succeeded in locating two call centres with imported ACDs at that time, Qantas Reservation and Silvertop Taxi's in Melbourne.

The trade liberalisation resulted in the arrival of major independent vendors Lucent Technology, Genesys, Aspect, IBM & HP all interested in developing the dormant Call Centre Market. By mid 1997 the large US Outsource Call Centre companies began buying up existing Telemarketing & Call Centre service agencies and today we have Sitel, Excel, Omnicom & The Index Group. Add to that list of 100's of smaller software and CTI vendors who arrived less noticed. Since 1996 the number of Call Centres have exploded from an estimated 800 to 5-6000 sites and employment has grown from probably 10,000 to closer to 100,000.

All because Senator Alston succeeded in removing a trade barrier? We're some, who are happy, then Minister for Industry John Moore didn't railroad that proposal (as he did with the import tariffs on cars)

At the same time politically on all levels of Government a sustained push to provide better service levels at lower cost dominated the agenda with some remarkable results. The Agency ( now known as Centreline), the ATO Customer Service Centres, The Brisbane City Council Call Centre are some of noteworthy initiatives. State sponsored Call Centre Development Offices was set up to attract call centres. Best known are the efforts of the SA & Tasmanian Local Government. Local councils got in on the act- Bendigo, Wollongong, Gold Coast & Hunter Valley were noticeable.