A parliamentary committee investigating tighter mobile tower planning restrictions has rejected the former Greens leader Bob Brown's proposed changes to telecommunications legislation.
The Telecommunications Amendment (Mobile Phone Towers) 2011 Bill would have subjected so-called "low-impact" mobile phone facilities, such as antennae, to government planning laws. It would also have required tower owners to consult with landholders within 500 metres of the proposed site. There would have needed to be a 200-metre distance to the nearest school or hospital, and mobile carriers would have had to lodge a five-year plan with councils to say where they wanted to install facilities.
Brown, who will retire from parliament in June, was unsuccessful in convincing the committee that the law should be altered. In a report published today, committee chair Doug Cameron said that while the committee is sympathetic to concerns from communities about telecommunications infrastructure being deployed in their areas, telecommunications companies have made improvements to the industry code of conduct in response to those concerns.
Cameron said that consumer demand for improved telecommunications services requires more telecommunications infrastructure, and consumers must acknowledge that this infrastructure must be built in their area to meet this demand.
Ultimately, the costs associated with increasing the amount of consultation would be impractical, Cameron said.
"It is the committee's view that these costs and unintended consequences suggest the Bill is impractical and would not effectively resolve the concerns it is seeking to address. On that basis, the committee recommends that the Bill not be passed."
In his dissenting report, Brown said that current regulation is inadequate.
"While we recognise the importance of providing appropriate coverage, security and stability of our telecommunications network, so too is the community's ability to voice concerns about infrastructure which may impact on their lives.
"Telecommunication carriers are given widespread powers to locate their facilities. The Australian Greens share the concerns of many in the community that the current consultation provisions are inadequate, and that communities should have a right to be more involved in the location of mobile phone towers and engaged in the decision-making process, and that the legislation should provide for this."
Brown acknowledged that there are technical issues with the Bill in its current form, and said that the Greens will make amendments so that the Bill will be more favourable to the Senate.
Similar proposed legislation from Independent MP Andrew Wilkie was rejected by a House committee in March.