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Monday, 18 November 2002
Page: 6614

Senator ALLISON (4:40 PM) —The Democrats strongly support the recommendations in this report of the Senate Standing Committee on Appropriations and Staffing. We are very supportive of improving security arrangements in Parliament House. As Senator Ray has said, a lot of people work here; it is not just senators and members. I think there are around 5,000 or so persons who work in this place, and we have a very important responsibility to make sure that security arrangements are there to protect them as well as us.

In this report, there are some questions that have been raised about whether or not it was necessary for the Parliamentary Service Commissioner to have been involved in this question, given that the Presiding Officers had already decided that an interdepartmental committee should be set up, and that was supported by all secretaries of parliamentary departments and approved in principle by the Presiding Officers. So things were already underway, regardless of the report that has been presented.

The report suggests that better coordination is necessary, and it seemed to me to be rather too focused on managerial aspects of security and not so much on security measures in themselves. That is perhaps not too difficult to understand given that, as I understand it, the Podger report was contracted out to PriceWaterhouseCoopers, who presumably had no special insight into security issues relating to the parliament. It also discovered that savings were not likely to be made on security and that in fact it may cost us more to have a more secure parliament. No doubt that will come as a disappointment to the Department of Finance and Administration, who are always looking for savings everywhere they go.

I support Senator Ray's remarks, too, about there being one rule for everyone in this place. It has always seemed to me incongruous that senators—and presumably members, over on the other side of the building—can just walk through security without subjecting their bags to the scanner. So we support measures that seek to demonstrate that we take seriously the business of security in this place. As Senator Ray says, too, it is not appropriate for us to talk about the possible areas where security might be improved. Suffice to say that just in the appropriations and staffing committee we have identified a couple of areas. We look forward very much to be being consulted by the President of the Senate in developing more secure arrangements. We are confident that the President has this as a top priority and will work effectively with Commonwealth security agencies in identifying those areas where we can improve.

I wish to add the remarks of the Democrats to what has already been said and encourage all staff and senators in this place to view those recommendations sensibly when they finally come and not to whinge, if you like, about possible changes that might make getting through the doors in this place a little slower or a little bit more uncomfortable. It is in the interests of all of us to take this matter seriously. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted.

Senator Robert Ray —Mr Acting Deputy President, I raise a point of order. It may be for the guidance of the presiding officer. I think there is a desire that we actually put that motion today, otherwise we are just not going to get it done. Maybe if Senator Allison could withdraw her seeking of leave to continue her remarks we might be able to actually proceed and not have it again.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Sandy Macdonald)—Senator Ray, I understood that the government was not prepared to proceed, but it is now. The question is that the report be endorsed and the proposals be adopted.

Question agreed to.