Fighting the battle on all fronts

Wentworth Courier Wednesday 17 November (Sydney)

Fighting the battle on all fronts

Just as phone towers grow like Topsy along the skyline, so do the lobby groups to fight them. Report KIM SHAW

Residents from Paddington and the Inner West have teamed up to fight 3G technology, claiming the network is not an essential telecommunications service and interferes with privacy rights.

The health impacts of electromagnetic radiation and the visual blight of phone towers are two additional issues which the group intends to raise with the Federal Government and with parent groups.

The rollout of 3G phone towers has caused consternation in dozens of neighbourhoods, as the towers must be placed closer together than regular mobile-phone towers in order to pass a signal.

A number of groups, such as "Tower Sanity", have cropped up in recent months arguing for a more cautious approach to the rollout of phone-tower facilities. The "Bronte No 3G" group last month lost a protracted battle against the installation of a Hutchison Telecoms 3G antenna in the vicinity of a playground, a primary school and a kindergarten.

The new lobby group with members in Paddington and Ashfield has no name as yet, but is collectively concerned about the privacy implications for 3G phone/camera technology.

Josephine Wadlow-Evans, of Paddington, said 3G technology was a luxury item and not an essential telecommunications service, and should not have the protection of the Federal Telecommunications Act. She said local councils should hold the planning powers over phone towers.

Under the Federal Telecommunications Act, phone towers less than three metres high are deemed low impact and can be erected with out the permission of the local council.

Mary Hawkins, a Greens councillor at Ashfield and a member of the new group, said she had yet to hear of 3G technology being used for social benefit. "You can see the benefit of mobile phones in calling for emergency services, but we don't think video phones provide essential social benefits," Ms Hawkins said. The group will seek to address Parents and Citizens groups from local schools and lobby the Federal Telecommunications Minister, Senator Helen Coonan.

A spokeswoman for Hutchison Telecoms said Australia followed safety standards set by the World Health Organisation in relation to electromagnetic radiation. She said 3G signals were one of the weakest radio signals in the environment compared with radio and TV broadcasts. Last month Hutchison and Telstra announced they would share Hutchison's 3G network infrastructure. The spokeswoman said this would minimise the impact the facilities had on local communities.

Informant: Don Maisch


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November 2004

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