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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 3 Hansard (6 March) . . Page.. 588..


Cancer-electromagnetic radiation

MR QUINLAN: Mr Speaker, my question is to the Minister for Urban Services, I think. There have been media reports today of a statement to be issued in the United Kingdom by the advisory group on non-ionising radiation of Britain's National Radiological Protection Board that there is some link, certainly a suspected link, between electromagnetic field radiation and the instance of cancer in children. Debate on this subject has been going on for quite some time and there have been previous studies and previous arguments about it. To some extent, it parallels the cigarettes/cancer debate.

Mr Moore: I do not think so. We have got conclusive evidence from the first epidemiological study.

MR QUINLAN: I mean that the stakeholders have seemed to come up with reports that suited their particular position. A couple of phrases occur to mind, such as prudent avoidance or precautionary principles to be applied. Can the minister advise us whether there are any planning issue or there is any review of planning parameters to ensure while this debate remains unresolved, and it may do for some time, that we do observe precautionary principles?

MR SMYTH: Mr Speaker, that is a good question because it concerns the public health of not only all Canberrans, but all Australians and ultimately all citizens of the world. As Mr Quinlan points out, there is a large amount of conflicting interest and conflicting data. Some of it says that there is an effect and some of it that says that there is not an effect. The issue that would impact specifically on the ACT is, of course, the building of the mobile phone telecommunications towers or the siting of the transmitters.

Currently, we build those or site those to an Australian standard. That is the accepted standard at this time. I believe that there has been a study by the Senate which was to report late last year, but I think that that has been pushed out. I am not aware of the results of that inquiry. To talk in generalities would be easy, but if there is a specific siting issue or an issue that Mr Quinlan is interested in, any approvals that would be given for any such structure currently would be in compliance with the land act and also in compliance with the Australian standard.

MR QUINLAN: Now that Actew/AGL is in place and is, one presumes, at least a quasi-private sector enterprise and is operating as such, what is the mechanism in the ACT for the carriage of this issue to ensure that we do, in fact, apply a precautionary principle rather than an Australian standard that might not have taken this into account? Should we not have within government, as opposed to within now a private sector operation, some sort of review to ensure that we are avoiding the worst outcome, given that questions probably will remain unresolved for some time?

MR SMYTH: Mr Speaker, there is legislation and there are guidelines and standards currently in place that would cover the siting of these towers, of these telecommunication facilities. There is evidence to say that that is entirely adequate, where met, and anything that is built in the ACT should meet not only the Australian


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