Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 08 Hansard (Tuesday, 28 June 2005 2005) . . Page.. 2332 ..
I do find it amazing that the security of this Assembly is not paramount—the building in which, of course, these ministers, our staff and others work, and to which the public does come and deserves to be able to safely observe the Assembly’s work in progress. I say that against the increased threat of terrorism to Australia. While I have no intention of talking up this threat, it would, nevertheless, be irresponsible to downplay it and then ignore the security climate as a factor when we planned the Assembly’s operations against that background. Instead, it would seem the government would rather see funding directed to major ideological pet projects which they feel will buy them more votes.
Speaking of ideological pet projects, such as arboretums and the human rights commission, taking precedence over essential tasks such as government building security, I was tickled pink to hear the Chief Minister on radio today accusing a couple of my colleagues here of being ideological because they dared to question the Chief Minister’s water management priorities. The irony and symmetry of all that is breathtaking.
Recent events at various embassies in Canberra have shown that there is a security concern, it is a legitimate concern and, therefore, this is an essential function that should be factored into the budget. As the home of local parliament, the security and adequate functioning of this building should receive, certainly, priority, although, as I say, this security threat is relatively low compared to other ACT targets. As an Assembly located in a high-risk target district, though, the security question, as I have said before, cannot be ignored.
The $300,000 funding received for the security upgrade and the additional $300,000 for the new entrance will, I suspect, barely cover the basics. In fact, I believe the amount of funding actually sought was $740,000, as revealed in the estimates hearings. That is what we found was the operational need to achieve those objectives, and that was clearly stated in the estimates. So I do not see how $300,000 will be adequate when, clearly, it was less than half the funding actually required to do the job properly and to properly increase the security of the building.
If this Assembly, its members, staff and visitors cannot be provided with a safe and secure working environment as a high priority, then one has to question the commitment of the Stanhope government to security issues in general. This, too, reflects their inability to prioritise funding for fundamental areas of need such as provision of finances in the 2005-06 ACT budget for the security upgrade and adequate maintenance of the ACT Legislative Assembly building.
My other concern is the uncertainty around whether or not an alternative entrance will be able to be used to ensure that the normal business of the Assembly is not interrupted. If we shut down the main entrance to the building, then we really do need to ensure there is an alternative access in addition to the members’ entrance. I got the impression in estimates—and I hope this is not the case, and perhaps this can be clarified later—that there was no alternative plan. I do not mind wandering in through the back door, carrying a briefcase, tripping over paint tins; that is all right, provided we can do that safely. It is much better that we at least maintain some sort of a functional entrance. I do not think that is going to be the case.