The Abbott government in Australia is pressing ahead with plans to fortify the ministerial wing of Federal Parliament that will see the Prime Minister’s office screened by a steel security fence and two bullet proof, concrete gatehouses.
House of Representatives Speaker Bronwyn Bishop is now seeking parliamentary approval for the new “perimeter security enhancements”.
The new physical security measures, which according to Mrs Bishop’s office will cost around $2 million, follow the highly visible upgrading of Parliament House security after the national counter terrorism alert level was raised last September and the Canadian Parliament was attacked by a gunman in October. New security measures implemented so far include increased federal police deployments, inside and outside the building, tighter access pass requirements for visitors to non-public areas and new physical security measures in parliament’s public foyer.
Police deployed outside Parliament are armed with “long-range weapons” and in recent weeks parliamentary staff has participated in “lock down” exercises focused on the threat that armed terrorists may gain access to the building. The 2.6-metre high steel fence recommended by the security taskforce will screen the facade of the ministerial wing and is intended to serve “both as a visible deterrent and physical barrier”.
Two concrete gate houses with bullet proof doors and windows will be built on either side of Parliament’s central north-south axis to provide external access to the ministerial wing including facilities for “advanced security screening, lock-down capability, and traffic flow management prior to entering the building.”
A perimeter fence and gatehouses were originally proposed in early designs of Parliament House but were not built.