Conduct of the inquiry
On 9 February 2012, the Senate referred the Telecommunications Amendment
(Mobile Phone Towers) Bill 2011 (the bill) to the Senate Environment and
Communications Legislation Committee (the committee) for inquiry and report by
9 May 2012.
The reason given for referral of the bill through was:
To allow opportunity for detailed consideration of the Bill
and to allow the Committee to hear from stakeholders and consider the practical
implications of the Bill.
In accordance with usual practice, the committee advertised the inquiry
on its website. In addition, the committee wrote to relevant organisations
inviting submissions. The committee received 56 submissions (see Appendix 1)
and held one public hearing in Canberra on 12 April 2012 (see Appendix 2).
The committee would like to thank the organisations and individuals that
made submissions to the inquiry and the representatives who gave evidence at the
Purpose of the bill
The bill is a private senators' bill introduced by Senator Bob Brown on
14 September 2011.
In his second reading speech, Senator Brown stated that the bill aims to:
...introduce the precautionary principle for the installation
of mobile phone facilities, to improve consultation with communities, scrutiny
of site choices and expand the opportunities for appeal.
To achieve these aims the bill seeks to amend the powers and immunities
regime contained in the Telecommunications Act 1997 (the Act) to:
- expand the definition of "tower" in relation to the
installation of a facility to include an antenna, aerial, dish or other
- ensure that a tower cannot be the subject of a low impact
determination made by the minister;
- ensure that maintenance of a facility does not include any
activity that increases the electromagnetic radiation emitted by the facility;
- create notification and consultation requirements on carriers in
relation to owners and occupiers of land within 500 metres of a facility that
will emit electromagnetic radiation;
- provide that no facility can be located within 200 metres of a
community sensitive site;
- require carriers to provide electromagnetic radiation exposure
maps and five-year plans for facility development; and
- insert a definition of the precautionary principle.
The bill seeks to provide greater opportunities for people to appeal
decisions made by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) in
relation to the granting of installation permits.
The ACMA would also be required to inform members of the public of the location
of telecommunications towers and provide electromagnetic emissions exposure
The bill also seeks to amend the Australian Radiation Protection and
Nuclear Safety Act 1998 to require the Australian Radiation Protection and
Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA), through the Radiation Health and Safety
Advisory Council, to review radiofrequency exposure standards every five years,
with the first review to be completed within 6 months of the commencement of
House of Representatives inquiry
On 19 September 2011, Mr Andrew Wilkie MP, introduced the
Telecommunications Amendment (Enhancing Community Consultation) Bill 2011 (the
Wilkie bill) into the House of Representatives. The Wilkie bill has similar
aims to Senator Brown's bill and seeks to:
...expand the requirements of telecommunications carriers to
notify and consult affected residents when installing mobile phone towers and
other related infrastructure. The bill also aims to restrict the allowable
distance between a tower and a site that is regarded as 'community-sensitive'
and to limit the size of tower extensions.
The Wilkie bill was referred to the House Standing Committee on
Infrastructure and Communications on 22 September 2011 for inquiry and report.
The advisory report on the bill was tabled on 21 March 2012 and recommended
that the House of Representatives not pass the bill.
The House Standing Committee concluded that:
...the bill, as currently proposed, would not meet its
objectives of strengthening the role of the community in the decision-making
processes by carriers. Furthermore, essential routine activities by carriers,
which would generally be of little concern to the community, will likely be
severely disrupted by the consultation requirements of the bill.
As at 9 May 2012 the Wilkie bill is before the House of Representatives
This report is divided into two substantive chapters. Chapter 2 briefly
outlines the policy context in which the legislation is proposed. Chapter 3
then discusses key issues raised during the course of the committee's inquiry
and outlines the committee's recommendation.
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