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Thursday, 12 September 1996
Page: 3466

Senator McKIERNAN(7.43 p.m.) —I will be fairly brief tonight. I want to finish a contribution I was making in this place yesterday on the matter of telephone towers, which is of enormous concern in the community in which I live, which is the City of Wanneroo. Before people think I am going to talk about Wanneroo and start to panic, I say to them that I am actually confining my remarks tonight to telephone towers within the boundaries of the municipality of the City of Wanneroo. As I said, it is not only of concern within Wanneroo; it is of concern right throughout Australia, certainly in the built-up areas of Australia at this stage. But it is of particular concern where I live and where some local action has been taken on it.

By way of a national perspective, I note that the National President of the Local Government Association, who is also the Mayor of Concord in Sydney, is also concerned about the matter. He tipped somewhat of a bucket on Austel, the regulatory authority. In an article in the West Australian he is reported as saying:

"Austel is just a pathetic organisation which is not performing its function. They are useless,". . .

That shows you why the people are so concerned about this matter. At a state local government level, there is huge concern within the WA municipal authority and its membership. They have expressed the community's fears about health, aesthetics and property values as the national program of installing telecommunications towers and infrastructure facilities proceeds.

At a more local level, one of my local councillors in Wanneroo, Graeme Major, said in an article in the West Australian on 5 August that the Wanneroo City Council was considering the approval for the erection of 14 telecommunications towers within the boundaries of the municipality. Councillor Major said:

. . . people were worried by the proximity of towers to residential areas and the lack of research into their long-term effects.

"There is a lack of evidence on the effects of microwave radiation and the carriers have not communicated to communities very well . . .

He went on to say:

By 2006 there is expected to be one tower for every street.

That is not something that we should be looking forward to. We are taking action about this on a local level directly into this parliament. The local Labor Party candidate for the seat of Joondalup, Dianne Guise, who is also President of the WA Council of State Schools Organisations, has produced a petition which calls on the Senate to:

(a)   immediately commence a moratorium on the erection of mobile phone towers;

(b)   institute, as a matter of urgency, a Senate inquiry into health and environmental risks that may be associated with mobile phone towers;

(c)   enact, in liaison with State and Territory Governments, appropriate legislation that shall prevent the erection of any future mobile phone towers in the immediate vicinity of any school, kindergarten, child care centre, recreation centre or playground.

Some of those petitions have already been lodged in the Senate by me, and I personally agree with the sentiments as contained in the petitions. I note also for the record that the local members of parliament, the member for Cowan (Mr Richard Evans) and the member for Moore (Mr Filing), have also taken action in the other place in regard to this.

I commend the work of Ms Guise in enacting, on behalf of the local community, these petitions. Hopefully, the matter will be lis tened to by the regulatory authorities and by the relevant minister, who can in fact do something about it. Hopefully, Austel, who is subject to some degree of criticism, which I have repeated here tonight in this place, will listen again to the criticism. If it does not, there will be further pressure from within this chamber and, I have no doubt, from within the other chamber to get action in regard to the safety of the residents in municipalities right around Australia to prevent the damage that is being done to people by the erection of these facilities.