House debates

Thursday, 25 February 2021

Questions to the Speaker

Members of Parliament: Staff

3:15 pm

Photo of Adam BandtAdam Bandt (Melbourne, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Speaker, I have questions for you. Just by way of context for those questions for you: on Monday I asked the Prime Minister a question that included references to access to Parliament House, and the Prime Minister said at the end of that question time that some of those matters were within your responsibility. On Tuesday, the Prime Minister partly responded by advising that the alleged rapist of Brittany Higgins did not have a parliamentary pass, but he did not provide any further information about whether the alleged rapist entered Parliament House or other Commonwealth offices. Again, for completeness of context: on Wednesday, in response to a question from the Greens Senate leader, Larissa Waters, the government leader in the Senate advised on behalf of the Prime Minister that the alleged rapist was on the lobbyist register for some time. Today there are media reports that the alleged rapist has in fact been inside Parliament House since the alleged rape.

My questions to you, Mr Speaker, relate to your role relating to the management of this building. I ask: can you inform the House whether the alleged rapist of Ms Higgins has been present in Parliament House since the alleged rape and, if so, when, in what circumstances and who provided him access to the building?

3:16 pm

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Melbourne. As the Prime Minister said the other day, with the information that the President of the Senate and I provided to him, there's no permanent pass but, if someone's signed in, that's a manual record, and what we'd advised was that it's impossible to know quickly whether that was the case. Just to give the member for Melbourne and members of the House some context, I've got a sample of the number of people signed in just for a week in November of 2019—just one week that's been picked for a sample. On the Monday, it's 566; on the Tuesday, 717; on the Wednesday, 825; and, on the 28th, 601. That's to give you some context of the number of people that are signed in. As to the question you've asked about, as I said, it isn't a simple task to get an answer to that. But I undertake to consult with the President of the Senate and examine any other issues that might be pertinent to that.

You asked the broader question about entering Parliament House. Anyone can enter the public areas. You asked about Commonwealth parliamentary offices. They are not the responsibility of the Presiding Officers. You asked about the lobbyist register. That is not the responsibility of the Presiding Officers. As for what meetings might have happened in ministerial offices, that's not the responsibility of the Presiding Officers. But I undertake to come back to the member for Melbourne. I'm being very clear that, for the reasons I've outlined, it won't be today, but I'll come back to the parliament.