Australian Parliament House is set for a $20 million upgrade of electronic security and surveillance camera capabilities, despite concerns they may be used to catch leakers and whistleblowers. The security upgrades, which are expected to begin in November, will overhaul electronic security systems from the replacement of electronic safe keys to security alarms and lockdown capabilities. Tender documents released by the Department of Parliamentary Services reveal additional “control and lockdown points” will be created in public and private areas of Parliament House.
The strengthening of electronic security comes just months after the department called for “perimeter security enhancements” costing $108 million. The upgrades included the creation of a 2.6-metre-high perimeter fence at the ministerial wing, gatehouses and bulletproof glass. In September last year, Australian Federal Police officers were authorised to patrol the corridors of Parliament House with automatic rifles shortly after reports of a potential attack on the building. Senator David Leyonhjelm said he accepted that there needed to be increased security at Parliament House after a shooting in the halls of Canada’s parliament in October 2014.
“This being the case we either need armed guards or security cameras and having internal cameras is the better option,” he said. “The cameras are OK, but should only be used for security not for identifying whistleblowers or other uses not strictly related to security.” Last year, internal security cameras were used to monitor contact between a suspected whistleblower and veteran Labor senator John Faulkner. Senior officers in the Department of Parliamentary Services monitored CCTV coverage of corridors to access nine minutes of footage while investigating a staff member suspected of leaking information to the senator.
In his submission to an inquiry, Senator Faulkner said he did not believe the corridors and rooms of Parliament should be monitored by surveillance cameras.
“I believe my capacity to perform my duties as a senator has been impaired irreparably by the inappropriate use of [CCTV] cameras within the parliamentary precinct,” he said.