Tragedy of errors

A phone tower drama in four acts

They’re situated in community parks, on hospitals, in shopping centres, and next to schools. They sprout, unheralded, in residential communities. Like pieces of gigantic scaffolding, they loom over entire communities or hide in flag poles and church crosses, on city lampposts and on shop awnings at just about head-height.

Ubiquitous mobile phone antennas - constantly emitting signals, covering our city in an invisible sea of radiation, spawning clones so as to eliminate the untenable “black spot”. And it is not just one network that blankets us with radiation.

Act I

The government, in its infinite wisdom - and by the sale of immensely profitable spectrum - is allowing seven telecommunications companies to provide a single service. These seven separate communications networks - each replete with mobile phone towers - vie for space on your roof top, your hospital, in your shopping centre, your community - as well as vying for the limited Australian market.

And to compound its gracious gift to humanity, the government allows “low-impact” mobile phone towers (so named because of their size and nothing whatsoever to do with their emissions) to be installed without the need to consult communities and without any regard for state and council regulations.

This means that mobile phone antenna are appearing like magic in residential areas across the country - regardless of whether they are welcome.

Act II

One such manifestation took place recently in Beecroft’s Maher Close in Sydney. Neighbours returned from a holiday to find an unsightly new addition to their street, just 20 metres from the closest residence and near to the home of a pregnant mum of young children.

This One.Tel site carried a sign saying “Caution Radio Frequency Field” and warning, “for your safety you are advised to keep away from the area indicated by dotted lines [extending 9.7 m from the source]. Persons fitted with cardiac pacemakers metallic implants or similar devices are advised to avoid antenna installation areas.”

Unfortunately for the community, the 9.7 exclusion zone took in the street’s turning circle used by one frequent visitor to the neighbourhood who wears a cardiac pacemaker! Should her friendship with the neighbours be terminated - or should they meet from now on at the local coffee shop - underneath another mobile phone antenna?

United in their resolve to reject this unwelcome intruder, residents of the street attached protest signs to the site.


At this point in the story, a curious drama unfolded. Two men in an unmarked van appeared one day and began removing the residents’ signs. When pressed by one of the neighbours as to whom they were, the men replied that they worked for council but refused to produce requested identification. The neighbour recorded the number plate of the van and contacted council, who replied that it did not own a vehicle with that registration! Who could possibly have wanted the residents’ signs removed so badly that it was prepared to resort to lies and subterfuge?

Not only were the residents’ signs removed, but so was the One.Tel warning sign. Suspense builds. Does this mean that it is safe for Mrs. Friend-with-implanted-pacemaker to visit residents in the close after all?

Act IV

More and more studies appear indicating harmful effects from RF radiation emitted by mobile phones and towers. Many people are developing reactions to the use of their mobile phones and some are reporting reactions to the radiation from the towers themselves.

Communities are expressing outrage about the loss of democratic rights - the lack of meaningful consultation and the inability to have a say about whether or not a potentially dangerous facility is situated near their homes, schools, day-care centres... They are angry that the federal government is just not listening to them.


A Senate Inquiry is being held and inviting submissions. What it finds will largely depend on the input it receives. Please write!

EMRAA News June 2000, Vol 5 No 2