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Thursday, 9 May 1985
Page: 1646

Senator ROBERTSON —Has the attention of the Minister for Finance been drawn to reports that Parliament House security personnel have been called to a stop work meeting tomorrow, allegedly to receive a report on projected security cuts in the forthcoming Budget? Is the Minister concerned about action of this kind, particularly when it is apparently being envisaged as a protest at unannounced Budget measures?

Senator WALSH —Yes, my attention has been drawn to that. It was drawn in the form of a letter from Mr Forbes, the secretary of the Australian Capital Territory branch of the Miscellaneous Workers Union, who was apparently kind enough to forward a copy of a note to his members which said:

The purpose of the meeting is to receive a report on the projected security cuts contained in the Joint House Budget and to decide on appropriate action to protect our jobs.

All staffing questions have been subject to discussion between various Ministers and parliamentary departments, and between you, Mr President, as you well know, Mr Speaker and myself. All staffing matters are under review. Of course, for 50 years there were no security staff at all in Parliament House.

Senator Missen —But you were not around then.

Senator WALSH —I was actually. I had been around for quite a few years at that time. Security staff were introduced by the former Prime Minister when he was the generalissimo who wanted to indulge some kind of military command fantasy, a fantasy which he declined to indulge at the time there was an actual shooting war in Korea against the wicked communists, despite his very firm views on other people fighting the wicked, as Mr Fraser saw them, all over the world.

However, I digress. There was for 50 years no security service until one was introduced by Mr Fraser. I refer to a report in the Canberra Times which says:

Asked what security there would be while the meeting took place, Mr Forbes said, 'There'll be none. Whether they are on or off duty, everyone will leave their homes and their posts'.

It is reasonable to assume from that that Mr Forbes does not regard the security service as essential to the security of Parliament House. If that in fact does happen and all walk away from their posts, they will have suggested to the Government that they are dispensable.

The PRESIDENT —As an addition to the answer provided by Senator Walsh to the question asked by Senator Robertson, I inform the Senate that the Acting Speaker and I have asked our officers to prepare contingency plans in the event of a stop work meeting taking place tomorrow to ensure the security of Parliament House to the best of our ability during the time of the stop work meeting.