Thursday, 3 September 2020
Statement by the President
Remote Participation, Security Arrangements
Colleagues, I'd like to make two statements now that question time has concluded. First, touch wood, now that we have successfully delivered our first fortnight of remote participation, I would like to acknowledge the efforts of people across DPS who designed, delivered and supported the system that has enabled this to be a success, building on the work undertaken that has seen more than 100 committee hearings with active video conference facilities since April. This has involved delivering not just the technical aspects but also direct contact with participating senators to ensure they were equipped and prepared ahead of this sitting period and troubleshooting technical issues as they arose. The list of people involved is lengthy, so I will identify just some of the key people, led by DPS branch heads Con Sfyris and Christine White: from ICT James Lawson, Gary Aisbitt, Lyz Lawrence, Michael York, Chris Williams and Tim Ryan; from parliamentary broadcasting Michael Ferguson and Matthew Bourke. On behalf of the Senate, I thank you.
Second, I need to make a statement relating to security management of the building, and it corresponds to a similar statement made by the Speaker at the end of the June sittings. The electronic access control system is currently in the process of being activated on the Senate side of Parliament House. In common terms, this refers to the new swipe cards that replace keys to access your suites. The rollout of this project predates my time as President, as part of the suite of security upgrades undertaken across the building over several years. I have always appreciated, and continue to appreciate, the sensitivity senators have regarding access control and associated data records and management, so I'm making this statement to the Senate.
Accordingly, I ensured that extensive consultation has been undertaken prior to activation. The Speaker and I have now formally approved and enacted the Electronic Access Control System Code Of Practice, which governs the management of this system, including its associated data. Prior to my approval of this policy it was considered and approved by the Senate Standing Committee on Appropriations, Staffing and Security. As a condition of that approval, I agreed to make this statement to the Senate.
First, the specific focus of all usage of the EACS and EACS data is for the purposes of security, safety and law enforcement. One of the key purposes of the code of practice is to function as a safeguard for parliamentarians against the possibility that the EAC system or its data may be used in a manner which improperly interferes with the functions and authority of the Senate, or with the free performance by senators of their parliamentary duties. In this regard, the administration of the EACS and the powers given to officers under the code of practice have effect only subject to the powers, privileges and immunities of the houses and their members. These protections are appropriately spelled out in the text of the code.
Second, while changes to the EACS code of practice must be approved by the presiding officers—that is, the Speaker and myself—I will not make any change without consultation with the Senate Standing Committee on Appropriations, Staffing and Security unless required as a matter of urgency, when, in such instance, it will be reported to that committee as soon as possible.
Finally, the code of practice includes a requirement that the code itself and compliance with it be reviewed at least every two years by an independent and suitably qualified person, appointed by the Assistant Secretary, Security Branch, in consultation with the Security Management Board of Parliament House. This process has taken several years. As I said, I inherited it upon taking office in November 2017 and I would like to thank the many senators and officials who have assisted in finalising this code, including former Senator Collins and Senator O'Neill, but particularly to Senator McAllister, who has worked and consulted extensively, reflecting senators' concerns over the last 10 months, a personal thank you as well.