Theres been no changes to Parliament House security protocols since Brittany Higgins alleged rape, a senate committee has been told.The Department of Parliamentary Services (DPS) secretary Rob Stefanic told a Senate estimates committee on Monday no changes had been made to the way it responded to incidents at Parliament House since Ms Higgins’ alleged rape by another staffer in March 2019.
However, moves to bolster safety by recording people that enter the building after hours and requiring them to report could be on the cards, the committee heard on Monday.
Australian Federal Police are investigating the assault on Ms Higgins allegedly in the office of her then boss, Senator Linda Reynolds.
Manager of opposition business in the senate, Labor Senator Katy Gallagher, asked the DPS, which manages security, a question on notice about whether anything had changed in how it responded to incidents at Parliament House since Ms Higgins’ alleged rape.
“The answer given is there have been no changes to these policies, is that the case?” Senator Gallagher asked.
“That’s correct, Senator,” Mr Stefanic replied.
“So knowing what we know now, are you seriously suggesting there’s nothing that needs to change in DPS’s response to incidents?” Senator Gallagher questioned. “I’m saying is that good enough?”
“You have my assurance there are processes under way and we are looking at it. It’s just that we have not implemented any actual change to process and policies,” Mr Stefanic said.
Senate president Liberal Scott Ryan said while changes were yet to be made, he had asked the DPS to explore whether to start recording people that enter the building after hours and if the system could regularly report back to senators and members, if they wished, about access to their offices.
“I don’t think with respect it’s within the remit of DPS to change the rules around access to this building or necessarily the policing of individual officers, I think that is something we need to consider,” Senator Ryan said.
“It is something I’ve asked DPS with the speaker to look at, whether we should set up a regular reporting regime so senators and members know who’s coming into their offices late at night.
“We haven’t got a report on that yet. It’s one idea that has occurred to me, and it is one idea I will filter through the relevant chamber committee if it is feasible to test whether that is an option senators and members would like.”
Senator Ryan said senators and members could set their own rules about access to their office and “we believe that they could be enforced”.
“Senators and members all have the capacity to set rules for their own staff and we’re looking at whether or not we can have a reporting mechanism around that,” he said.
Mr Stefanic said some of the potential changes being discussed would require agreement from senators and members, given it concerned access to their offices.
“It is a complex situation,” he said.
“What I’m really concerned is we are placing a massive onus on security officers who are already required to use their professional judgment in real time, based on the situation presented to them.
“Applying processes which would be unreasonable would pose an unreasonable burden on them.”

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