The federal government has moved to counter misinformation about the 5G mobile network, as new polling reveals that a startling number of Australians buy into conspiracy theories linking the coronavirus to 5G.
One in eight Australians believe Microsoft founder Bill Gates is somehow responsible for the coronavirus and the 5G wireless network is to blame for spreading the disease, the Essential poll released on Tuesday showed.
The same number of people believe the pandemic is being used to force people into getting vaccinations, Essential found.
One in five people believe the media and government are exaggerating the death toll to scare the population.
Two in five think the virus was engineered and released from a lab in the Chinese city of Wuhan, which the Prime Minister has repeatedly said there is no evidence to support.
The same proportion of people rejected the theory, while a quarter are unsure.
An overwhelming majority of respondents (77 per cent) said the outbreak in China was much worse than reported in official statistics from Beijing.
The survey of 1073 people follows small protests across Australia led by 5G conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers.
On Tuesday, the federal government was forced to remind the public that the 5G claims are bogus, and that tampering with 5G towers is a criminal offence.
“Any suggestions that there is a link between 5G and coronavirus are utterly baseless,” Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said.
There is no evidence that the use of these radio waves in mobile networks is harmful to health or related to the current health pandemic.’’
Mr Fletcher urged Australians to have confidence in Australia’s stringent safety standards and decades of global scientific research about electromagnetic energy (EME).
He warned that spreading 5G misinformation was irresponsible, dangerous and could be harmful to the community, citing the recent arson attacks on mobile phone towers in the United Kingdom and New Zealand.
“Interfering or tampering with telecommunications facilities is a criminal offence. The Australian government will not tolerate any vandalism of communications infrastructure and I urge Australians to report any suspicious activity to their local police,” Mr Fletcher said.
Causing damage to mobile phone networks can cut vital connectivity, risking serious harm, even death, if a person is unable to contact Triple Zero.”
The nation’s chief medical officer Brendan Murphy has also reassured the public that 5G is safe.
“The scientific evidence shows that wireless telecommunications, including 5G, do not weaken people’s immune systems and do not place us at higher risk of getting viruses such as COVID-19,” Professor Murphy said.
“Turning off your wi-fi will not protect you from COVID-19. The best way you can protect yourself is to practise physical distancing and good hygiene, and to stay at home if you have any cold or flu-like symptoms.”
Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association chief executive Chris Althaus slammed the false claims about 5G as “the worst kind of fake-news misinformation and are both irresponsible and completely unacceptable during a genuine health crisis”.
“It is important that the community is provided with clear, factual science based information,” Mr Althaus said.
“The Australian mobile phone networks, consisting of 3G, 4G and 5G, are critical during these challenging times – especially when we are asking people to stay at home.
“All generations of mobile technology including 5G have a major role to play in enabling Australians to stay as connected as possible as well as enabling industries to be more productive and efficient in order to respond to this health emergency.”