Senate debates

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Questions to the President

Parliament House: Security

3:02 pm

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

I would like to respond to the question asked by Senator Wong in the chamber last Thursday, following reports in the media relating to a member of the public being asked to remove or cover up clothing that displayed a union logo. All people entering Parliament House are subject to security procedures, and prohibited items are not to be brought into Parliament House. Items that might cause danger to people or damage property, might be used to disrupt order or decorum or compromise security arrangements must be cloaked before entering into Parliament House. These items include weapons, aerosol or paint cans, laser pointers and obvious protest paraphernalia. Protest paraphernalia, including clothing with specific messages, if allowed into Parliament House, may, depending on the circumstances, have the effect of bringing the protest into Parliament House and can be used to disrupt the order of the parliament. Operating Policies and Procedures No. 10.5 notes that if a person is found inside the building with a prohibited item, Parliamentary Security Service staff ask that person to surrender that item.

I'm advised that, on 19 June, a protest organised by UnionsACT was conducted on the authorised assembly area within the parliamentary precinct. On 20 June, I'm advised a PSS officer noticed potential protest material or paraphernalia being taken into the building through the main front screening point by a small group. The PSS officer spoke to a passholder and the visitors who owned the material before contacting the team leader. One of the visitors was carrying a poster that was promptly passed to the passholder who accompanied the group. The clothing worn by the visitors displayed material that related to the demonstration of the previous day. After speaking with the PSS officer, the team leader took into account these matters and made an assessment that their clothing was potentially protest paraphernalia. The clothing in question contained more than a small logo. Where a personal assessment is made that an item of clothing worn by a person may be protest paraphernalia, they are requested to cover it, change the item or turn it inside out.

The team leader approached the visitors and requested that clothing displaying protest material be covered, changed or turned inside out. The team leader suggested to the group that they could use the nearest bathrooms for changing purposes. After some discussion, I'm advised the visitors appeared to comply before leaving the area. I'm advised the PSS team leader was asked if his decision was because their clothes displayed union logos. The team leader explained that displaying a union logo was not the issue. The issue with the clothing was the slogans and images contained on the clothing. From the inquiries made as a result of this question, and the media report, the department has determined that the manner in which the relevant security service team leader addressed the situation was professional and courteous.

As is evident from the many union representatives that attend Parliament House on a regular basis, there is no policy precluding access by association, nor does the policy prohibit the display of logos. Parliament House receives thousands of visitors each day. The Parliamentary Security Service officers bear a significant responsibility for interpreting policies and making judgements at a point in time which balance the right of people to access the building while ensuring that proper decorum is maintained. My advice is that this particular policy has been in place since January 2009, and it has not since been reviewed. All security policies are currently on a review program by the Department of Parliamentary Services, which commenced last year.

3:05 pm

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr President, I appreciate you providing a response to the chamber. The opposition will perhaps provide further information in the near future. Can I just flag at the outset that there are a number of facts that are contained in the statement that do not accord with the information that we have been provided with, but we will make those inquiries and deal with it in the appropriate way.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you, Senator Wong. I'm happy to pursue matters if they're brought to my attention. You're quite right: some of the matters in the article are contested by the information that I was advised with.