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Inquiry Divided On Mobile Phone Hazard
West Australian
May 04, 2001

Mobile phone users should pay a $5 levy each year to raise money for research into whether the phones emit harmful radiation, the Australian Democrats said today.

The recommendation was contained in a sharply divided report released today on the possible harmful effects of radiation from mobile phones.

The report left users little wiser on the contentious and much-studied issue.

Although the Senate inquiry found no conclusive evidence as to health effects, its chairwoman was adamant more research was needed and also scolded the telecommunications industry for having little interest in potential health risks.

Democrats Senator Lyn Allison called for all mobile phone users to be hit with the $5 annual levy to raise $40 million for research on the issue.

She said the year-long inquiry had shown that Australian standards, based on the heat output of mobile phones, were inadequate.

There was a growing body of evidence that even low-level radiation, with virtually no heat output, could change and damage biological systems.

But Senator Allison's report failed to gain the support of either the government or the opposition.

Liberal Senator John Tierney, the inquiry's deputy chairman, said Senator Allison's report was little more than a scare campaign.

"We take the view, in line with the internationally accepted position, there is no conclusive evidence at this stage the level of exposure received from mobile phones of any health effects," he said.

"This inquiry has been a complete waste of time.

"The reality is, there is no conclusive evidence that using mobile phones has any effect that is negative."

Senator Allison urged that the bulk of proposed Australian research be handled by the CSIRO.

She also criticised the telecommunications industry for having little inclination to look into safety in the technology.

"The telecommunications industry has shown no interest in developing safer mobile phone or transmitter technology," she said.

"It has shown no interest in allowing people to make a choice which might minimise the health risk and it continues to promote mobile phones to children who are likely to be more vulnerable than the rest of the population."

The Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) said the findings should reassure the public.

"The inquiry found no substantiated scientific evidence of health effects from mobile phones and their base stations that comply with strict safety guidelines," AMTA chief executive Ross Monaghan said in a statement.

"This is consistent with other recent government and expert reviews internationally, including the landmark review completed by the World Health Organisation last year."

Mr Monaghan said AMTA supported the continuation of the National Health and Medical Research Council research program, paid for by an industry levy, but did not support an additional, separate tax on mobile phone users.

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