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Wednesday, 16 October 1996
Page: 4266

Senator ALLISON —Madam President, my question is directed to the Minister for Communications and the Arts. Senator Alston, you said yesterday:

There is a national code designed to regulate the location of mobile phone towers and other transmission facilities. They take account of existing health concerns.

Can you please tell the Senate whether you refer to the new draft code or the existing code, and where in particular the code refers to regulation of infrastructure to take account of health concerns?

Senator ALSTON —I do not have either code in front of me at the present time so, obviously, I cannot quote from them. As you would know, we have sought to revise the existing code, to tighten it in a number of respects, to ensure that it is not simply a matter for the carriers to decide where they locate transmission towers and other facilities of particular significance to local communities. The new code is designed to ensure that there is more accountability and more consultation with the local communities.

In terms of the locations of those facilities, quite clearly, one of the concerns that local communities have is that they might somehow be responsible for radiation at unsafe levels. That is why we have commissioned the work that I announced yesterday. We are setting aside $4.5 million over the next five years to ensure that we have an independent assessment of the extent to which there might be any validity in community concern.

We are not doing what you are doing—presuming that there is and then going on from that to make out a worst case scenario, and talking doom and gloom. We are simply having an objective assessment of the facts, all of the scientific evidence, and to the extent that that justifies any tighter action in terms of the location of facilities and towers, we will take that very much into account.

Senator ALLISON —Thank you, Minister Alston. If I can rephrase this question: are you willing to say to the Senate that there is a reference within the national code to concerns about health?

Senator ALSTON —I have just answered that for you. I am not in a position to quote from the code. If you do not have the existing code I will get a copy for you and you can go through it and see for yourself.