September 22, 2014 – 9:42AM
Reporter at The Canberra Times
Australian Federal Police officers patrol Parliament House on Friday. Photo: Andrew Meares
Federal Speaker Bronwyn Bishop and the President of the Senate Stephen Parry have ordered a lockdown of the ministerial wing of Parliament House and a ban on unaccompanied passes on Sunday night, saying it is “effective immediately”.
The move comes as Australian Federal Police officers replaced unarmed public servants who provided internal security on Friday after Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Parliament House had been identified as a potential terror target through “chatter” intercepted by security agencies.
The Department of Parliamentary Services issued a memo from the presiding officers saying the new arrangements were a continuation of these changes after the national terrorism alert level was raised to high by Mr Abbott on September 12 after a warning from ASIO chief David Irvine.
The new announcement placing ministers’ offices in lockdown was made via an internal note to all staff working at the House.
“Other than Members and Senators, only Ministerial Staff or those with both photographic passes and conducting business in the Ministerial Wing may access the area,” the memo said.
Also, under the new arrangements, all visitors have to be escorted at all times and there will be no unaccompanied passes.
“All visitors must be escorted at all times. No pass holder can sign in more than 10 visitors at any time and they must accompany the people they have signed in,” reads the memo.
Previously, some visitors were able to gain access to the building without being signed in and accompanied by a building staff member.
The instructions also call for visitors “wherever possible” to be directed to the public entrance.
Some traffic access to the building has also been cut off, particularly around the ministerial wing.
“The ministerial slip road access is also closed and advice will be provided directly to those officers who will be affected about alternative,” the memo reads.
The communique also flags increased checks on passes in the building. “All pass holders are reminded to clearly display their pass whenever in the precinct and this will be checked,” it said.
Press Gallery president David Speers said journalists would still be able to visit ministers without revealing who they were meeting.
“You will be asked to show your yellow pass and may be asked what you’re doing. If you simply say you are meeting a Minister, that will be fine. You will not be required to state who you are meeting,” he told press gallery journalists in an email on Monday morning.
“If you have people with you on escorted passes, you will be asked more details and may require someone from the Minister’s office to meet you.”
Source : The Sydney Morning Herald