Secrecy surrounds 5G committee members

Updated report here.

In 2018 an 84-page report was published by the New Zealand Ministry of Health (MoH) on the safety of wireless technology. It concluded that current safety standards do not need to be revised.

Cleverly, the MoH did not write the report itself, it was signed-off by members of the Interagency Committee on the Health Effects of Non-ionising Fields.

Establishing who sits on this powerful committee should have been a 10-minute job. Unfortunately, the authors of the report are not named in the publication. The Ministry of Health also refuses to name them.

Remember the open and transparent government Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern promised us? It seems this modus operandi has not been adopted wholesale by government departments.

In October 2019 a complaint was made to the Office of the Ombudsman asking for the list of committee members to be released. So far, despite having powers to compel the MoH to release details of the committee’s members, it has so far failed to do so.

Apparently there have been meetings of the Ombudsman and representatives of the Ministry of Health discussing the list, but so far the names of the secretive members of this committee have remained, well – secret.

Until this week when – out of the blue – the MoH released a list naming 22 members of the committee (22!). For a moment, many of those waiting for the list to be published thought the 2018 committee had been named. But no, it is a list of its current (2020) commitee.

While the battle, if that’s the right word, to have the 2017/18 committee members named continues, we at least have the current list, and it makes for some interesting reading.

One name that popped off the page is Jon Duffy, the CEO of Consumer, the ‘independent’ consumer rights organization that exists to see that Kiwis get a “fair deal”.

The organization is known for its Consumer magazine, website, and for independently testing all manner of products to help establish the ones that offer the best value for money. It also challenges dodgy-dealers, and pushes for law changes to protect consumers.

Before becoming the organization’s CEO, Duffy was chairman of the board at Consumer.

In August 2019 Consumer caught the eye of wireless safety advocates by publishing an article by Hadyn Green titled Why 5G isn’t a health hazard (plenty of people posted comments challenging the author’s report).

The reason why it is important to know who sat on the committee that signed-off the Report to Ministers 2018 is that it essentially says wireless radiation is safe and is a green light to the industry to continue rolling out mobile phone and wireless technology such as 5G. But the report does hedge its bets.

For example it concludes that: “…even if magnetic fields have some effect, this would be responsible for only a very low percentage of childhood leukaemias.”

On page five it adds that: “It is well known and understood that Extremely Low Frequency electric and magnetic fields induce internal electric fields and currents in the body. If the external fields are strong enough, these induced internal electric fields can interfere with the body’s nervous system.”

When it comes to wireless technology, such as that emitted by your modem or phone, the report says: “Although studies into brain tumour risks associated with mobile phone use have found a small association in the heaviest users, the researchers acknowledge that this could simply reflect biases in the data.

“Nevertheless, the suggestion that there may be a risk has meant that the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified Radio Frequency fields as a 2B ‘possible’ carcinogen in 2011.”

The report does not define what a heavy user is. How many hours a week is that?

However, the overall tone of the 2018 report is positive for the mobile phone industry, which would have been welcome news to the government when it was released – as it makes money leasing frequencies (like they own them?) to mobile network companies.

And given that, wouldn’t it be interesting to know who sat on the committee that signed it off?

We think so.

The Buzz continues to push for the release of the 2017/18 committee’s members.


Steve Hart is a writer and podcaster.