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    MHR Andrew Wilkie: PHONE TOWER SAFEGUARDS ONE STEP CLOSER

    From the office of MHR Andrew Wilkie:
    September 19, 2011

    PHONE TOWER SAFEGUARDS ONE STEP CLOSER

    The Independent Member for Denison, Andrew Wilkie, has now tabled his Telecommunications Amendment (Enhancing Community Consultation) Bill 2011 which will give the community a greater say on the building of mobile phone towers. The Private Member’s Bill would make several changes to the Telecommunications Act, including limiting telcos using the “low impact” category to avoid state and local planning laws.

    It would also provide for mandatory consultation with people living within 500m of proposed towers, extend the objection period from 10 to 30 business days and give the community the right of access to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
    In a speech to the House of Representatives this morning, Mr Wilkie said that across Australia communities were finding themselves in a position where they had no place to turn.

    “A case in point is Optus’s proposal to build a tower on top of my local Woolworths in Sandy Bay,’” he said. “Originally it was declared by the carrier to be a low-impact facility, even though it would literally tower over a heritage neighbourhood and be an eyesore from nearby historic Battery Point. Yes, community pressure seems to have forced Optus to re-categorise the development as high-impact and now the Hobart City Council is considering the proposal. But the community should have been spared the heartache in the first place and there is still no certainty ACMA won’t just ride in at the eleventh hour and issue a permit, regardless of the Council’s determination.”

    “Mr Deputy Speaker, this example is just one of the many reasons I’m very pleased to present this Bill to the House. For too long, communities have been unable to have a say in where new towers spring up in their area. The playing field has been skewed towards the commercial self-interest of the telecommunications companies.

    “I understand that there must be a fundamental balance in this debate between the public interest in having fast and reliable mobile communications on one hand, and the public interest in not having inappropriate and hastily planned developments springing up all around our communities on the other. But for too long this balance has been skewed in favour of telecommunications companies, who under the current legislation have a carte blanche to place new telecommunications facilities essentially wherever they please.”

    “I’ve had people from around the country call my office complaining about the sense of hopelessness they feel when they are informed, if indeed they are informed at all, that a significant development will happen right next to their house and that there is next to nothing they can do about it. Some communities have fought these developments and some of them have been successful. Many more have failed, though not through want of time and effort. The consistent message I get from those who have succeeded is ‘it shouldn’t be this difficult’’.”

    “Mr Deputy Speaker I agree with those communities. It should not require public protests, it should not require lobbying politicians and courting media to get some kind of say about a development happening in your own backyard.’’

    Mr Wilkie expects the Bill to be debated next month.

    FURTHER INFORMATION: Philippa Duncan 0428 528 673 Philippa.Duncan@aph.gov.au

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