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  • Parliament House's symbolic lawns could be ruled off-limits to toughen security
  • By Henry Belot
  • 29/11/2016 Make a Comment
  • Contributed by: BigJoe ( 10 articles in 2016 )
A new proposal could see members of the public banned from Parliament House's lawn roof.
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The time-honoured tradition of rolling down Parliament House's landscaped sloping lawns may be resigned to history in a bid to improve security.

Key points:

  • Restrictions to access on the lawns could be brought in over this summer
  • Politicians are divided over the security proposals
  • Tougher security measures where introduced in 2014 by then-prime minister Tony Abbott

Parliament House was famously designed to allow visitors to walk over the top of politicians at work, but authorities have raised concerns this access could increase the risk of a terror attack.

The restrictions, which are likely to be introduced over the summer period, have received mixed reactions from politicians, with many concerned they may restrict public access to Parliament.

Fairfax Media reports the security measures may include new security barriers, fences, gates, fewer pedestrian entries and extra armed police officers on patrol.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said politicians would trust authorities to make the right decision about public access given the terror threat.

"It's a tough decision for them to make, because instinctively you want people to be able to come freely to Parliament House, watch Question Time, do the tour, roam freely over the gardens, but we have the reality of the modern security environment," he said.

Security agencies have raised concerns about access to the roof of Parliament House for many years, but restrictions have been delayed to ensure public access and heritage requirements.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said he did not feel vulnerable in Parliament House and questioned what risk rolling down a hill could pose to politicians and the public.

"I think children rolling down the hill is a fantastic thing and I'm sure that children rolling down the hill is not a security risk to the Parliament," he said.

"But as a general proposition, I think it's a matter for people with relevant expertise to make these judgements."

Like putting 'barbed wire over the Opera House sails'


Victorian Senator Derryn Hinch said he had received security briefings in recent months and understood the need to improve security, within reason.

"Security must be good here but I have already indicated I would vote against putting a huge Berlin Wall across that great green swathe of grass," he told 3AW Radio.

"That big sweep of green symbolised the building — it would be like putting barbed wire over the Opera House sails."

Labor Senator Murray Watt said he did not want Parliament House to lose its traditions in a bid to improve security.

"We've always got to be a bit sensible about these things," he said.

"The things that people enjoy about our nation's Parliament — like rolling down the grass on the hill, as kids do every day — we need to make sure that those sorts of things are protected as well."

Three Labor politicians raised concerns about the new security measures during a party meeting on Tuesday morning.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten encouraged those concerned about the changes to seek security briefings and said the symbolism of being able to walk on the roof would remain.

Proposal follows security beef-up

Tougher security measures were introduced at Parliament House in 2014 after intelligence agencies picked up talk of potential threats to the building and government figures.

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott ordered the Australian Federal Police with automatic rifles to take charge of security inside and outside the building, rather than security.

New access restrictions were also introduced for visitors and staff in the ministerial wing of Parliament house, where Government ministers and politicians have their offices.

Last month, a Canberra woman said security guards forced her two-year-old son to check in a toy lightsaber during a visit to Parliament House because they considered it a "weapon".

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-11-29/proposal-to-limit-public-access-to-parliament-house-lawn-roof/8073984


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