Chapter 1

Chapter 1


Conduct of the inquiry

1.1        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.[1]

1.2        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.[2]

1.3        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).

1.4        The committee would like to thank the organisations and individuals that made submissions to the inquiry and the representatives who gave evidence at the public hearing.

Purpose of the bill

1.5        The bill is a private senators' bill introduced by Senator Bob Brown on 14 September 2011.[3] 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.[4]

1.6        To achieve these aims the bill seeks to amend the powers and immunities regime contained in the Telecommunications Act 1997 (the Act) to:

1.7        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.[6] The ACMA would also be required to inform members of the public of the location of telecommunications towers and provide electromagnetic emissions exposure maps.

1.8        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 the bill.

House of Representatives inquiry

1.9        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.[7]

1.10      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.[8]

1.11      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.[9]

1.12      As at 9 May 2012 the Wilkie bill is before the House of Representatives for debate.[10]

Report structure

1.13      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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