Bills Digest no. 64 2014–15
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WARNING: This Digest was prepared for debate. It reflects the legislation as introduced and does not canvass subsequent amendments. This Digest does not have any official legal status. Other sources should be consulted to determine the subsequent official status of the Bill.
Law and Bills Digest Section
3 December 2014
Purpose of the Bill
Structure of the Bill
Policy position of non-government parties/independents
Position of major interest groups
Statement of Compatibility with Human Rights
Key issues and provisions
Date introduced: 26 November 2014
House: House of Representatives
Portfolio: Speaker of the House of Representatives
Commencement: On the day after Royal Assent.
Links: The links to the Bill, its Explanatory Memorandum and second reading speech can be found on the Bill’s home page, or through the Australian Parliament website.
When Bills have been passed and have received Royal Assent, they become Acts, which can be found at the ComLaw website.
Purpose of the Bill
The purpose of the Parliamentary Service Amendment Bill 2014 (the Bill) is to amend the Parliamentary Service Act 1999 (the Act) to provide that the Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police (AFP), a Deputy Commissioner of the AFP or a senior executive AFP employee may be a member of the Security Management Board (the Board) for the Australian Parliament House.
The Bill also amends the existing functions of the Board to include providing advice on operational security measures.
The Bill has one Schedule, containing two items that amend section 65A of the Act.
Prior to the introduction of the Act, the Parliamentary Departments (which numbered five at the time of the Act’s passage) were established under the Public Service Act 1922. The Act established a separate legal framework for the Australian Parliamentary Service, which is comprised of the Parliamentary Departments.
Implementing a recommendation of a Senate Committee report, the Board was formally established under the Parliamentary Service Amendment Act 2005. The Board’s role is to provide advice as required to the Presiding Officers on Parliament House’s security policy and the management of Parliament House’s security measures. The term ‘Presiding Officers’ refers to the Speaker of the House of Representatives (Speaker), the President of the Senate (President), or them acting jointly. The Presiding Officers have the control and management of the Parliamentary Precincts. The Speaker introduced the Bill.
The Board’s membership is made up of the Secretary of the Department of Parliamentary Services (DPS), or a Senior Executive Service (SES) employee of DPS nominated (in writing) by the Presiding Officers; an SES employee of the Department of the Senate nominated (in writing) by the President; and an SES employee of the Department of House of Representatives nominated (in writing) by the Speaker. The Board may, with the approval in writing of the Presiding Officers, invite other members of the Parliamentary Service to attend its meetings and heads of other organisations to be represented at its meetings. The Presiding Officers appoint a Board member to chair meetings of the Board. The Board is currently comprised of the Secretary of DPS, the Serjeant-at-Arms as the representative of the Department of the House of Representatives and the Usher of the Black Rod (Usher) as the representative of the Department of the Senate. The Secretary has stated that DPS provides the secretariat support, and that any Board member may request a meeting.
History of security breaches at Parliament House
The following events could be considered security breaches at Parliament House that occurred before October 2014:
- On 26 May 2014, Senator Bill Heffernan brought an imitation ‘pipe bomb’ into Parliament during a trial of new security measures. Under the trial, Members of Parliament and their staff, employees of the Parliamentary Departments, and certain Commonwealth agency passholders were not routinely screened by X-ray machines or metal detectors.
- On 23 August 2012, a man entered a restricted area of Parliament House due to a ‘roster error’. The man had entered Parliament House through the main entrance and located an unmanned door between the public and restricted areas that would, in the normal course of events, have had a security guard present. The man stated that he spent about 15 to 20 minutes walking through the Ministerial and representative wings without a pass and asking for directions, entering to the offices of the Speaker Peter Slipper and Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan. He then entered a room directly opposite the Prime Minister’s personal office where Prime Minister Julia Gillard was holding a press conference. He placed a document titled ‘How could this happen?’ on her lectern while she was speaking. The man managed to leave the room before being intercepted by security. There was a review as a result and security was strengthened.
- In September 2011, a man who had been signed in on an escorted pass left his escorted group and made his way to a restricted area near the House of Representatives chamber. Security escorted him back to the public area.
- In 1992, a man drove his vehicle up the forecourt and through the marble columns and the front doors of Parliament House, stopping in the Great Hall. The man surrendered himself and was arrested, and the incident led to a security review.
Use of security systems
At the May 2014 Senate Estimates hearings, an issue emerged as to whether CCTV cameras, which are an element of the security system in Parliament House, had been used appropriately. This matter is currently before the Senate Standing Committee of Privileges.
Parliament House Security Task Force
In response to an increase in the national terror threat level, a Parliament House Security Task Force (Task Force) was established on 22 September 2014. The decision was also made to increase the AFP presence, including some officers armed with long-arm weapons, around Parliament House. There has been no public, specific heightened threat assessment of Parliament House itself.
The Task Force was established as, in a heightened security environment, the Presiding Officers considered that it would be valuable for them to receive formal advice from a range of security providers. The President stated that the establishment meeting was convened by the Prime Minister.
The Task Force is to advise and discuss all security matters in Parliament House, particularly physical structures and integrity. While the Task Force is operational, the Board advises on matters such as, for example, ICT security, operating procedures, major event management and other arrangements on a daily basis. The Task Force has a wider scope than the Board: its task is to develop recommendations on security infrastructure and to discuss all matters of security, bringing together people that the Board does not have in its membership, including relevant officials from the AFP, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Attorney-General’s Department, Department of Finance and the Presiding Officers and DPS. The Task Force meets on a weekly basis in sitting weeks and will exist on an indefinite basis until its task is complete. There appears to be no defined end date. Neither the Task Force nor the Board are superior to each other: both are to provide advice to the Presiding Officers to inform their decisions on security matters.
Selection of Bills Committee
On 27 November 2014, the Selection of Bills Committee deferred consideration of the Bill to its next meeting.
Both the Coalition and Labor support the Speaker’s Bill.
There does not appear to have been any public comment on the Bill by individuals or interest groups.
The Bill has no financial impact.
The Statement of Compatibility with Human Rights can be found at page three of the Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill. As required under Part 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011 (Cth), the Government has assessed the Bill’s compatibility with the human rights and freedoms recognised or declared in the international instruments listed in section 3 of that Act. The Government considers that the Bill is compatible.
The Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights considers the Bill compatible with human rights and has completed its consideration of the Bill.
Item 1 amends subsection 65A(2) of the Act to expand the Board’s membership to include either the Commissioner of the AFP or the Deputy Commissioner, or a senior executive AFP employee who is nominated by the Presiding Officers in writing, to sit on the Board. The Board will then consist of the Secretary of DPS, the Serjeant-at-Arms, the Usher and the AFP representative.
Currently the function of the Board, as set out at subsection 65A(5) of the Act is:
… to provide advice as required to the Presiding Officers on security policy, and the management of security measures, for Parliament House.
Item 2 amends subsection 65A(5) of the Act so that the Board’s function is expanded. The revised function will specifically refer to security operations, by requiring the Board:
… to provide advice as required to the Presiding Officers on security policy, and the management or operation of security measures, for Parliament House.
The Bill amends the Act so that an AFP representative must be included on the Board. The AFP will then be involved in the Board’s function of giving advice to the Presiding Officers on not just management of security at Parliament House but also security operations on the premises.
Members, Senators and Parliamentary staff can obtain further information from the Parliamentary Library on (02) 6277 2500.
. Parliamentary Service Amendment Act 2005 (Cth), accessed 1 December 2014; J Grace and M Coombs, Parliamentary Service Amendment Bill 2005, Bills digest, 118, 2004–05, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 2005, p. 5; Senate Appropriations and Staffing Committee, 40th report, The Senate, Canberra, May 2004, accessed 1 December 2014.
. Ibid., subsection 65A(3).
. Ibid., subsection 65A(4).
. Senate Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee, Official committee Hansard, 20 October 2014, pp. 4, 11, accessed 28 November 2014.
. I am grateful for the assistance provided by Jola Olender, an intern at the Parliamentary Library, in compiling this information.
. L Vasek, op. cit.; P Martin, op. cit.
. Senate Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee, Official Committee Hansard, 15 October 2012, op. cit. P Martin, op. cit.; M Rout, op. cit.
. Senate Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee, 26 May 2014, op. cit. P Dorling, ‘Faulkner says he was spied on in leak investigation’, The Age, 27 May 2014, p. 4; P Dorling, ‘CCTV snooping on Faulkner’s office breached code, says clerk’, The Canberra Times, 28 May 2014, p. 6, accessed 1 December 2014.
. Ibid., pp. 78–82. See also B Bishop, ‘Second reading speech: Parliamentary Service Amendment Bill 2014’, House of Representatives, Debates, 26 November 2014, p. 13; S Parry (President), ‘Second reading speech: Parliamentary Service Amendment Bill 2014’, Senate, Debates, 27 November 2014, p. 34, accessed 3 December 2014; J Marszalek, ‘Canberra upgrades its police defence’, The Adelaide Advertiser, 24 September 2014, p. 4; G Ramage, ‘Copping the new house rules’, The Australian, 24 September 2014, p. 4; T Shepherd, ‘Attack puts the nation on alert’, The Adelaide Advertiser, 24 October 2014, p. 6, accessed 1 December 2014.
. Ibid., pp. 67, 71, 85–86.
. Australia, Senate, Journals, 70, 2013–14, p. 1891, accessed 1 December 2014.
. S Parry (President), ‘Second reading speech: Parliamentary Service Amendment Bill 2014’, p. 34, op. cit; P Dutton, ‘Second reading speech: Parliamentary Service Amendment Bill 2014’, House of Representatives, Debates, 26 November 2014, p. 17, accessed 2 December 2014. T Burke, ‘Second reading speech: Parliamentary Service Amendment Bill 2014’, House of Representatives, Debates, 26 November 2014, p. 17, accessed 1 December 2014.
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