Phone tower bill
On 27 October, Andrew Wilkie, Independent MP for Denison in Tasmania, introduced a Private Members Bill for an Act aimed at giving communities more say about the siting of mobile phone base stations.
In introducing the bill to the parliament, Mr Wilkie said that he was not trying to stop the construction of the base stations, but to give councils and communities more power and his bill was prompted by the large numbers of complaints he had received from communities around Australia.
‘No one seems to be listening. Telcos have all the rights. councils have few rights and the community seem to have no rights,’ he told the House. ‘Powerful companies, whether they be banks, supermarkets or telecommunications companies, seem to be able to dangle governments on fairly short strings almost like puppets. These big companies seem to be able to do whatever they want.’
In 2011 Mr Wilkie moved a bill which would have given the community more rights in relation to phone towers but said that bill had gone ‘nowhere’. The current bill aims to:
- expand the number of people to be notified about new mobile phone base stations, requiring consultation for residents living within 500 metres of new facilities;
- extend the timeframe for people to respond to applications for base stations to 30 days;
- prevent the construction of base stations within 100 metres of ‘sensitive sites’ such as schools;
- limit the number of facilities that can escape council approval by being classified as ‘low impact’;
- stop carriers from adding new antennas to existing facilities under the guise of ‘maintenance’ to avoid council approval.
`Many new phone towers in recent years have been badly sited and subject to no or little community consultation,’ Mr Wilkie said. ‘Frankly, residents are the ones who have to live with mobile phone tower developments so they should have a say as to where they’re sited.’
(Media release, 27.10.14; http://www.andrewwilkie.org/content/index.php/awmp/media)