Fifty people attended a meeting in Coburg on October 6 to protest against the installation of "smart meters" by electricity distribution companies in Victoria. Two similar meetings had already been held in nearby Brunswick.
The meters enable remote reading of electricity use every half hour, remote connection and disconnection of electricity, and differential charging at different times of the day, among other functions.
Sonja Rutherford told the meeting that there are several problems with the meters. The ones used in Victoria send information and receive instructions via radio waves, sent either to a tower or to a collector on poles in the street. The radio waves (also known as electromagnetic radiation or EMR) can cause health problems, including an increased risk of cancer and problems for individuals who are particularly sensitive to EMR.
Rutherford said there have also been a series of fires due to EMR generating electric currents in house wiring.
There are also privacy issues. Data on electricity use at different times of the day can be legally provided to government agencies and debt collectors. There is also the possiblity of people hacking into the system communications.
Legislation requiring customers to pay the cost of installing the meters was adopted by the previous Labor state government and retained by the current Liberal government. Rutherford urged people in houses where the new meters have not yet been installed to lock up their old meters and attach a notice refusing installation of the new meters.
A local campaign group was set up for the Moreland area, which includes Brunswick and Coburg. There is a Victoria-wide coalition of local groups which can be contacted at stopsmartmeters.com.au.