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Wednesday, 17 May 1972
Page: 2698

Mr SPEAKER - The Canberra 'Times' this morning published an article regarding the holding of the South East Asia Treaty Organisation meeting in Parliament House. In order that all honourable members are aware of the arrangements that have been made I believe I should outline the position to the House.In March last year the Minister for Foreign Affairs wrote to me to ask whether the House of Representatives chamber and suitable ancillary office accommodation could be made available in Parliament House for the meetings of SEATO due to take place in June this year. In his letter the Minister stated that be was making the request only after extensive inquiries in Canberra and in Sydney had failed to reveal any other suitable site. As there had been criticism of the use of Parliament House in 1966 for SEATO meetings I sought the views of the Leaders of the Parties on the Minister's request. I should say here that the Party Leaders received my letter in the week before Easter and time did not provide them with the opportunity to discuss the matter with their colleagues.

Question so resolved in the affirmative.

Nevertheless, it was only after I had received the concurrence of the Party Leaders and bad discussed the matter with and had received the concurrence of Sir Alister McMullin, then President of the Senate, to the request that I replied to the Minister indicating my agreement to the use of the chamber and rooms on the House of Representatives side of the building for the conference. I have been most concerned to ensure that the rights of senators and members are not interfered with in any way whilst SEATO personnel are accommodated in this building and that the guarding of the chamber and the rooms to be occupied bv SEATO is done as unobtrusively as possible.

To this end I have placed the following conditions on the use of the House by SEATO: The first condition is that senators, members and visitors in the company of a senator or member, provided they are recognised by House attendants who will be stationed alongside each SEATO security guard, are to be permitted to proceed without any restriction through any passageway or corridor in the building. The unrestricted right of access to all passages and corridors in the building by senators and members will not of course give members any right of access to the chamber or to any other room handed over to the conference for its use. All other persons - that is parliamentary and ministerial staff, Press representatives or visitors not in the company of a member and desiring access to restricted passageways or corridors - that is where the rooms of SEATO personnel are located - will need to have either an identification pass or an appropriate escort. These restricted passageways will be the corridor of the two wings housing Ministers' and members' rooms. Access to all entrances to the building will not be affected.

The second condition is that no Service personnel, either in or out of uniform, are to be used for the purpose of providing security guards in the House. The third condition is that security guards for the conference areas are to be members of the Commonwealth Police Force who will not wear uniform but will be identifiable by a lapel badge only. I wish to stress that these police officers will not be armed. As honourable members will know. I have written to a number of honourable members seeking their concurrence to the use of their rooms for the conference, and it is open to each honourable member to agree to his room either being used or not. I have also written to each of the Party Whips asking whether or not their Party rooms could be made available. I believe that the arrangement that I have made will enable the conference to take place in Parliament House with the least disruption to the normal working of the building. I want to stress that only the meeting of the Council of Ministers, that is, the Foreign Ministers of the countries taking part in the conference or their representatives - will meet in this chamber. The meetings of the military advisers to the conference will take place in the Department of Defence buildings at Russell Hill.

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