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Tuesday, 7 August 2001
Page: 29301


Mr McMULLAN (3:34 PM) —I also have a question for you, on a different matter, Mr Speaker. Concerns have been raised with me and the Chief Opposition Whip concerning the circumstances surrounding the removal of two people from the public galleries yesterday. I wonder if you can report to the House the protocols and procedures in place for circumstances such as that and confirm to the House that those proper procedures were observed yesterday.


Mr SPEAKER —I will respond to the Manager of Opposition Business seated, although I do think it is a matter of some moment. I have in fact sought a report from the man responsible for parliamentary security and the Serjeant-at-Arms about the incident that occurred in the northern gallery yesterday and I am satisfied that all of the action taken by the security staff involved in the incident was entirely appropriate and entirely within the guidelines. Having looked at the report, I have commended them on the action they took.

What members will not be aware of, and of course I was unaware of until I asked for this report, was that at least one of the gentlemen in question had in fact been quite abusive to security staff prior to entering the gallery and that on occupying a seat on the northern gallery he continued to interject—albeit not loudly or he would have been removed earlier—and used foul language. On four occasions he was warned by security staff that if he persisted they would have to remove him. As members then observed, he then persisted in a very public way and was removed, having already been warned on four occasions that his language was quite unacceptable and was in fact distracting those who were seated around him.


Mr McMULLAN —If I may follow that up briefly, Mr Speaker, I thank you for the comprehensive response and I certainly acknowledge the sensitive and difficult task that security staff have. I tried to phrase the question to recognise that we are aware of some particular difficult circumstances they faced yesterday. Nevertheless, some members were concerned about the process and there is on my part, and that of others, concern that we should clarify what the proper processes are. I do not expect you to do all that now, but I wonder if you could—


Mr Tuckey —Are they mates of yours?


Mr SPEAKER —The Minister for Forestry and Conservation!


Ms Roxon —You ought to be thrown out.


Mr SPEAKER —The member for Gellibrand may find herself following her own instructions. I call the Manager of Opposition Business.


Mr McMULLAN —Mr Speaker, I wonder if you could clarify to the House the standing instructions that exist for security staff in dealing with those matters. I accept the confirmation you have given that, in checking, you were satisfied that those procedures were followed on this occasion, and I do not seek a reiteration of that because you have already said that. But I wonder if you could perhaps report to the House or, if there is a written document, make it available to members. I do not want to make the job of the staff any harder by putting out anything that is confidential, but if you could brief members somewhat more comprehensively I think that might appease some of the concern that there is about the procedures yesterday.


Mr SPEAKER —I will look at the matters raised by the Manager of Opposition Business. If there are any confidential matters that make it difficult for me to respond as comprehensively as you may wish, I will personally discuss them with you, and otherwise come back to the House with as fulsome a statement as it is responsible for me to deliver.

I should, though, add that one of the things that the parliament is proud of is that it has such an open gallery, that the requirement that many parliaments have for galleries that are separated from the parliament is something that has never been necessary in 100 years of Australian federal parliament and that both sides intend to see that maintained for the next 100 years. Part of being able to maintain the open gallery is the professionalism which the officers of parliamentary security show. I know the Manager of Opposition Business is not in any way reflecting negatively on that, so I am not wanting that to be implied in my remarks. I merely want officers to know that their role and the way in which they discharge it is appreciated by parliamentarians.