Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 16 March 1978
Page: 704

Go To First Hit

Senator MARTIN (QUEENSLAND) - I am puzzled by what the Opposition is trying to indicate to the Senate in this debate. We have an amendment before us on which we have heard little so far. Therefore, I shall not comment on the amendment at this stage. I shall comment on the content of the debate as it has flowed to and fro on either side. The case from the other side of the chamber has been put forward in two parts. The first part is an allegation that people are acting too hastily on security and therefore the proposed actions should be slowed down. The second part is that no action should be taken, in any event. I wonder what honourable senators opposite are trying to achieve. At the beginning of the debate there was some sort of structure to the argument. It has been a little difficult to follow since. Perhaps we can extemporise for a few minutes.

Senator Primmermade us privy to some fascinating personal incidents he has experienced in his time as an honourable senator. I shall refer to a few I have experienced which alarmed me in relation to security. They have led me to the conclusion that some sort of action on security is long overdue. The question of whether the action we are taking is precisely the right action and how the action should be taken are other matters. I shall get on to that matter. I have had a number of experiences which have alarmed me from the time I first became a senator. People assume that Parliament House is a fairly secure place. I am sure that all of us have had experience of people from outside expressing some surprise at the free entry and roaming of corridors afforded to anyone who walks in to this place off the street.

Like most members of the public, I assumed when I was elected that there was some sort of security and that so long as I was in this building I was reasonably secure at any time of the day or night. Therefore, it was rather a rude shock to me when early in my experience here I left my office very late at night and proceeded to leave the House by the front entrance. I started to walk along the Opposition lobbies- we were then in Opposition- at approximately 2 a.m. and I was rather surprised when I turned the corner into the Opposition lobby to confront two men, one of whom was lifting from its position hanging outside the Opposition Senate party room the notice board which notifies honourable senators when meetings of parties will be held. As I said, I was rather surprised. I was also a little tired so my reactions were not very quick. I looked at them; they looked at me. One of them said: 'Can you tell us how we get out of here?' As we were then approximately 10 yards from the doorway into King's Hall I concluded that those gentlemen did not know where they were and, therefore, they had no right whatsoever to be in the Opposition lobbies at that time of night. However, I am not an unnaturally intrepid soul so I pointed out the doorway to them hoping they would get out of it as quickly as they could. That incident brought home to me the fact that I could not work here late at night with the previous confidence I had that so long as I was in Parliament House I was secure. Since then when I work here late at night I assume that I must lock the door to my office. Security is so poor that one cannot be sure who will be wandering around here even at that time of night or morning.

I had a further experience when I was Opposition Deputy Whip» . As you are aware, Mr Deputy President, there are two doors behind you which lead from this chamber into a corridor which the President traditionally uses when he moves to and from this chamber. That corridor leads into one of the main Senate corridors. You would also be aware, Mr Deputy President, that crossing the President's corridor and forming a T-intersection is a corridor between the offices of the Government «Whip» and the Opposition «Whip . The whips use this corridor to communicate quickly with one another. One day when the President was in the chair I had cause to proceed from the Opposition Whip's office to the Government Whip's office. I was at the Tintersection when I was rather surprised to bump into two young men. I hope that I am not considered a bigot in terms of dress or anything else but the fact that they were wearing jeans and Tshirts and no shoes, that I did not recognise them and that when they saw me they took to their heels, indicated to me that they had no business being within five feet of the door which leads into this chamber.

Those two incidents have alarmed me. I mentioned them to the previous President, and 1 mentioned them to the current President. They are the sorts of things that can happen. Some people might say that the attendants have no business letting people wander around the corridors. My feelings on that are a little mixed.

I will give a few more anecdotes for Senator Primmer's benefit. He is not the only one who has not been recognised around here. The fact that some strange gentleman had some sort of surveillance over entree cards for a reception here is another matter. I have long since felt that it must be an impossible job for attendants in this place to know whom they should be halting when people attempt to proceed through doors marked 'Strictly members only'. There is no way for them to tell whether those people should be there or not, unless they happen to recognise them. It is no wonder that the attendants have not bothered to challenge strangers in the past, except on a few rare occasions.

I will not attempt to count the number of times that I have been refused access to the Senators' Gallery in the House of Representatives. The most recent time was early this year. I have been in this place for nearly four years and the gentleman who sought on that occasion to refuse me access to that gallery in the House of Representatives was someone whom I recognised very well indeed. He had probably been here for at least as long as I have, but he did not recognise me. There is, of course, a universal assumption that members of Parliament are not women; so some attendants have made that assumption and when a woman has attempted to enter the chamber they have not bothered to check their memories to find out whether she does have rightful access to that chamber. If he had been a new attendant I would not have been annoyed; but, since he was someone I recognised, I think it was only reasonable to expect that that attendant to recognise me. However, that is apparently one of the difficulties for women in this place. I have also, on occasions, been very rudely refused access to party meetings by attendants who thought I was a member's secretary and therefore someone who could not set foot in that sacrosanct area. But we have managed to clear up those situations fairly smartly.

I do understand the problem faced by new attendants. They have no reasonable way of knowing who should be allowed to walk through certain doorways in this place. We place an impossible burden on them when we have absolutely no means of identification or checking. Early last year I had the privilege of visiting

Japan and meeting members of the Diet. I was interested in the fact that in Japan members of the Diet- the upper House and the lower House- wear a distinctive little badge.

They wear it at all times which the Japanese people recognise even of its wearer is in the street, as indicating that that individual is a member of the Diet. It is a badge that members of the Diet wear proudly. It also has the very clear advantage of security in terms of quick identification. Of course, one can always say that it is possible to lose one's badge and for someone else to pick it up and put it on. That is a hazard. But I think that risk is statistically rather less than the risk that we run every day in this place, with literally dozens of people pouring through the doorways of the Parliament whom attendants do not dare challenge.

Earlier today I was discussing this subject with a former member of the State Parliament in Queensland who happens to be visiting Canberra at the moment. As I said, he is a former member of a State Parliament and so is a former member of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, and he happened to be wearing his CPA tie when he arrived. Nobody at any stage of my taking him to various Ministers' offices around the building asked him for a pass, although he did not really have any right of access. But he was wearing a CPA tie which, it appears, guarantees immunity of some sort. It would be just as easy, I would imagine, for somebody to lose his CPA tie and for somebody else to pick it up and know that he could wander around this place without any challenge. I contrast that with my experience and just say that the present situation is quite untenable. If we are to have any reasonable method of security in this Parliament, we must look at the realities and realise that under the present circumstances the responsibilities that are given to certain employees of this Parliament at the moment are impossible for them to carry out.

Some reference has been made to the Hilton Hotel bombing. I was glad that Senator Primmer reminded the Senate that that is not the first such outrage that we have had in this country. I was glad that he reminded the Senate that several letter bombs were sent through the post during the 1975 election campaign and that a non-political individual- a totally innocent person- who had the responsibility of opening the mail in the Queensland Premier's Department was blown up by a bomb because proper security precautions were not taken. I am surprised that Senator Primmer did not cast his mind back a little further to an incident in which his party's former leader, Mr Calwell, was shot at. It surprises me that people in Australia treat the Hilton Hotel bombing as something which is completely new in our society. We have had this type of violence for some time and, at great risk, we have not taken notice of it. To a certain extent, one can blame the Hilton Hotel bombing on the fact that people have not taken the notice they should have taken of earlier shooting and bombing incidents in this country and have not been as scrupulous with regard to security as they should have been. We all can lament the limitation of freedom that it means, but we have to realise that we have a particular responsibility.

Our physical security is one matter, but we are surrounded by innocent people. We all know when we go into public life that we run particular risks. We all know that when we address public meetings during election campaigns, when feelings tend to run a little high, and when we do other things of that nature there is a certain risk attached. In Australia we do not expect that risk to be very high. But the people who are around us, the people who come to listen to speakers at these meetings, or the onlookers who sit in our gallery do not think in those terms and they do not expect to run that risk. It is a matter of total horror to us that two completely innocent men were killed in Sydney- the number of men killed has now increased to three- because a bomb had been planted. Two men who were going about their business, totally innocent and unaware of security problems attached to meetings of leaders of nations, lost their lives. Nobody ever thought to warn them that there were certain security risks in that area.

Certainly, we should not over-react. Certainly, we must make sure that we act in a way which does not infringe civil liberties. It might irk Senator Primmer and others that their legitimacy here has been challenged, but I just ask them to put the matter in perspective. They might feel that they have a right to be annoyed about those incidents. Possibly they do. I cannot account for the tone of voice in which they were challenged. However, I think they must realise that if we are to have any realistic security in this building there will be a period of adjustment and settlement. You, Mr President, have made a statement on security which I think is probably a reasonable response to the problem. Enormous difficulties are entailed in making Parliament House secure. However, it seems to me to be no answer at all to say that without going to extreme measures we cannot make this building totally secure.

The fact is that at the moment Parliament House is a favourite target of university studenttype pranks at the time of year when university students get up to such pranks. They gain access to this place with the greatest of ease. I have nothing against university students or their pranks- they tend to be amusing and to liven up a fairly dull scene- but it does prove that people without any particular skill at all have free access to this place now -

Senator Georges - Why not?

Senator MARTIN (QUEENSLAND) - Free access- access to our offices? The honourable senator says 'why not?'; but why should they? We in this building have the right to believe that we are not physical targets for people who have some sort of grudge. We have the right to believe that our papers and our offices are secure. It has been pointed out to me -

Senator Georges - That is a different matter altogether.

Senator MARTIN (QUEENSLAND) - It is not a different matter at all. If people can come in here for the purpose of doing us physical harm- that is one supposition, but there is another one -

Senator Georges - Who should be allowed to enter our offices- someone who is authorised to enter our offices and search our papers? Is that what you want? That is what has happened.

Senator MARTIN (QUEENSLAND) - There is another problem, and that is the matter of the security of individual offices. I am astonished at the fact that we cannot secure our own offices, except in the most superficial way. I am astonished, almost whenever I walk into this building, whether the Parliament is sitting or not, to find that I do not need a key to open my office. That means that nobody else needs a key to open my office, Senator George 's office or a whole lot of other offices in this building. We can, of course, lock our filing cabinets. I do not know whether Senator Georges is aware of how many variations of keys there are for the standard issue of Public Service filing cabinets which we have in our offices. Not very many. It seems to me that our offices are not secure and our papers are not secure. Somebody who wanted to make mischief could do so with the greatest of ease. We would then sit back, throw up our hands and say: 'That is dreadful'. There have been incidents in this Parliament where it has been alleged that people have improperly gained access to the rooms of members and senators and gained access to the papers that were in those rooms and, subsequently, used those papers. They are extreme cases; they are not common. I certainly do not know who comes and goes in my office when I am not around. I do not know who comes and goes when I am present on these premises because it could be literally anyone.

I said at the beginning of my speech that I came here with the assumption that basic security would exist, such as the security in a building in which I work in Queensland- the Australian Government Centre- which essentially houses public servants. After 6 o'clock at night that building is impregnable. It appears to be all right for that building to be made secure but not for this building. I once worked at the University of Queensland. It is not a major target for malcontents in the community, but the same basic security existed. After a certain time of day the doors were securely locked, the building was locked and checked and nobody gained access unless he or she had a key to the door.

Senator Georges - Are you not confusing two types of security?

Senator MARTIN (QUEENSLAND) - No, I am not confusing the issue. Senator Georges will get his turn to speak later.

Senator Georges - You are confusing two types of security.

Senator MARTIN (QUEENSLAND) - Senator Georgesis trying to confuse me. If he will be quiet for a moment and listen for a change he will find out what I am saying.

Senator Missen - That is optimism.

Senator MARTIN (QUEENSLAND) - Senator Missenmay also have a point. As I have said, I came here with the assumption that this place would be reasonably secure. Other people come here with the assumption that it is reasonably secure, such as those innocent bystanders we keep talking about. Shortly after I came here for the first session of Parliament in which I was involved some friends who live in Canberra came to visit me. They came here to join me for the evening meal. I indicated to them that they ought to go to the entrance that we refer to as the 'rear of the Senate' and ask there for me. At a little after the appointed hour I was surprised when they knocked on the door of my office and walked in. They were also a little surprised that they had been allowed to do that. They had come in the Senate entrance door and approached the Senate attendants' box. I must make it perfectly clear that the person to whom I am going to refer anonymously no longer works in this place. My friends approached the Senate attendants' box, which was just inside the doorway, and were mildly taken aback to see someone in a Senate uniform reclining comfortably in his chair with his feet on a desk watching a portable television set. That was at 6 p.m. With some difficulty, they managed to raise their voices above the noise and indicated that they wanted to see me. He told them that my door was next to the lift on the first floor and that they could feel free to get into the lift and go up to my room. So they arrived without any warning at all.

I do not know what instructions are given to Senate attendants. I do not know whether they are told not to watch television at 6 o'clock at night when they are on duty. I do not know what sort of precautions should be taken in relation to directing total strangers. My friends obviously were total strangers as they did not even know where the lifts were and they just wandered around the building. Perhaps that area of security is deficient. I suspect that the general lackadaisical attitude that has prevailed in the past on the part of members of parliament as well as employees has been at least partly responsible for the fact that that could happen; partly responsible for the fact that the two youths to whom I referred earlier could have been within five feet of this chamber and not have been challenged but just took to their heels when they saw someone who appeared to belong in the place and partly responsible for the fact that two men were wandering around the lobbies of this House at 2 a.m. and did not know how to get out although they had managed to get in.

I should like to make a few other points but I understand that a ministerial statement is about to be made. Therefore, I seek leave to continue my remarks when the debate is resumed.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.

Suggest corrections