Thursday, 5 December 2019
That the Senate—
(a) notes the importance of ensuring that Australian Parliament House is a safe place to visit and work;
(b) notes longstanding security arrangements in Parliament House have evolved in recent years and that further changes are proposed, in particular, the operation of closed circuit television systems (CCTV) and the new Electronic Access Pass System;
(c) notes that these systems, like other security and information systems, are managed by the Department of Parliamentary Services, under the authority of the Presiding Officers, on behalf of the Parliament;
(d) notes that, under the Parliamentary Precincts Act 1988, the powers of the Presiding Officers to manage and control the precincts apply subject to relevant orders of the Houses, which means that the administration of these security and information systems is constrained by the powers, privileges and immunities of the Houses and their members;
(e) affirms that the collection, management and dissemination of information through the CCTV and Electronic Access Control System (EACS) is to be managed such that parliamentary privilege is protected;
(f) pursuant to paragraph (e), requests the Presiding Officers expedite protocols for the collection, management and dissemination of information through the EACS for adoption by the commencement of Parliament in 2020;
(g) notes the President's advice, that as an interim arrangement, pending finalisation of the protocols referred to in paragraph (f), when the President is required to make a determination in relation to the release of CCTV footage or EACS data to an external agency, and in consultation with the Clerk considers that the release of such data may involve matters of privilege in relation to the functions or authority of the Senate or its committees or in relation to the free performance of a senators' duties, the President will consult the Deputy President prior to agreeing to the release of any CCTV footage or EACS data; and
(h) further notes the Senate's previous resolution in December 2018, calling for an update on the MOU between the Attorney-General and the Presiding Officers, requests that this be expedited, and affirms this as a priority for 2020.
I seek leave to make a short statement.
These are important matters that go to parliamentary privilege, which is absolute. I want to place on record my thanks for the President's engagement on this and his commitment to ensuring that the parliamentary privilege protections that are afforded to members of this place are retained in a very different environment in which there is substantially more information obtained and held by other parties. So I do want to say to you, Mr President, that the opposition has appreciated your engagement on this and we look forward to the revision of the MOU, as between the Australian Federal Police and the executive, as we discussed, I think, a year ago. Obviously, there have been other matters since that time that have reminded certainly opposition senators, but I would say all in this place, of the importance of ensuring that parliamentary privilege for all senators is protected.
The government is appropriately prioritising updating the MOU between the Attorney-General and the Presiding Officers, but notes that this raises some complex issues and may take some time to finalise.
Can I make a statement now from the chair. The protection of parliamentary privilege and private information of members and senators is paramount in managing the security and data systems in Parliament House. This resolution restates that. The evolving security environment has required changes to operations in this building—some before my time in this role, and some on my watch. Due to previous events, I understand there remains a sensitivity around some of these elements which has underpinned the consultation and work I have undertaken overseeing their implementation and management.
This resolution is the product of these developments and discussions and will put in place an interim arrangement that will allow the activation of the EAC system. It also encompasses the review of the operation of the CCTV system that will be undertaken in coming months and that will engage David Elder, former Clerk of the House of Representatives, specifically to consider the CCTV code of practice and its protection of privilege. It also restates the prioritisation of the renegotiation of the arrangements with the executive regarding the protection of parliamentary privilege, which is also a personal priority of mine for the coming year.
Senators should remain confident that the protection of privilege and the security of private information of senators remains my highest priority. I understand the other place either has recently dealt with or will very soon be dealing with a motion in very similar terms. I'd like to thank all senators who engaged constructively with me and officials in dealing with these matters.
Thank you for your comments, Mr President. I do want to place on record a response to the statement the government just made, which was a reference to the MOU taking time—sorry, I apologise; the MOU being something that will take some time to deliver. I would remind the government that there was a unanimous resolution of the Senate a year ago, so there has been a lot of time. I would hope that the delay will not be extensive.
Question agreed to.