The fight against Telstra’s installation of 5G in Mullumbimby looks set to continue, with campaigners maintaining a 24-hour presence at the site and lodging a formal complaint with the communications watchdog.
The campaigners made headlines across the country last week when they held a large, peaceful protest at the Daley Street mobile tower, preventing Telstra technicians from undertaking the upgrading work.
The protest, which attracted around 100 people, defied state-wide public health orders preventing large gatherings during the COVID-19 crisis, and resulted in at least one arrest.
While the protest has concluded, the 5G opponents are now maintaining a round-the-clock presence at the site in a bid to prevent Telstra from quietly returning to undertake the installation.
‘The community and businesses sent through many hundreds of objections to Telstra, and lobbied the council for a year against the 5G upgrade in Mullumbimby,’ said Rinat Strahlhofer, an administrator of the Northern Rivers for Safe Technology Facebook Groupo.
‘What other option were we left with than to take to the streets to protect the environment for our children?’
But local Federal Member Justine Elliot criticised the protest, saying that ‘disregarding social distancing directives endangers the health and safety of the wider community, Telstra staff and the police’.
In a statement on social media she said Telstra had advised her that, under Federal telecommunications laws, it did not need permission from local and State Government to undertake the 5G installation.
‘The upgrade is legal and will go ahead,’
Byron Council has confirmed that Telstra does not need its permission to undertake the upgrading works.
Nevertheless, Mrs Elliot’s comments have incensed anti-5G movement who argue that Telstra did not meet its requirements under the deployment code, rendering the upgrade illegal.
The campaigners have lodged a formal complaint with the Australian Communications and Media Authority, a fact they say Mrs Elliot was well aware of at the time of making her comments.
‘I was personally outraged that Justine Elliot felt it was in any way appropriate to strip away our civil liberties with an inaccurate Facebook post,’ another administrator of the Northern Rivers for Safe Technology Facebook page, Tashi Lhamo, said.
‘ACMA is currently considering complaints about Telstra’s compliance with the ‘Mobile Phone Base Station Deployment Code’, and that complaint has, in ACMA’s own words, “not been satisfactorily resolved”.’
Meanwhile, at last Wednesday’s Byron Council meeting Greens Councilor Sarah Ndiaye attempted to move a urgency motion ‘to call on Telstra to stop work on the Dalley St tower until such time as the community complaint to ACMA has been addressed and the COVID-19 social distancing measures have been lifted.’
However, the move was kyboshed when a majority of councillors voted not to debate the issue because it was not ‘urgent’ enough.