Community Safety

Transcript | Sky News News Day | 04 July 2024

July 4, 2024

Thursday 04 July 2024
Interview on Sky News News Day
Subject: pro-Palestine protest group breaches parliament security

KIERAN GILBERT: Back to Parliament now, where this protest continues and a major security breach at Parliament House. Joining me is the Shadow Home Affairs and Cyber Security Minister, James Paterson. You've just put out a message on social media. You're quite concerned about this breach.

JAMES PATERSON: This is a very serious security breach, Kieran. Over about a decade, tens of millions of dollars was spent fortifying and protecting this building, specifically to prevent intrusions like this on the roof of Parliament House. Without going into more information than I should in a public forum, if someone can get access to the roof, then their access to the building is much easier than it otherwise would be. So it's very serious that these people have been able to do so, and that the security mechanisms in this building have failed to prevent it.

GILBERT: That's a worry, because beyond the banners, obviously, any other malicious activity is what’s feared most.

PATERSON: That's right. I mean, these are protesters. They don't appear to have any violent intent. But if protesters can do this, then someone with violent intent could also do this. And it is a very menacing thing to have these things hanging from the front of the building. I don't want to overstate it, but that upside down red triangle is Hamas symbology that is supposed to indicate IDF targets and Israeli targets in the context of the war in Israel and Gaza. And for that to be appropriated on our Parliament hung from the front of our Parliament is a disturbing thing.

GILBERT: And it also says under our coat of arms, war crimes enabled here?

PATERSON: Yeah. It's extraordinary and obviously, that other statement about the river from the sea, which the Prime Minister himself said is a very violent statement that has no place in Australia. And right now it's hanging off the front of Parliament because security has failed to protect this building.

GILBERT: These individuals surely would know, must know, that this activity does nothing to broaden support for this cause.

PATERSON: I think much like most of the protests we've seen in our country since the 7th October, it will continue to damage the Palestinian cause in Australia, just as the university protests, just as the protest outside synagogues and the menacing protests in our cities have done. But this is particularly bad. I mean, they are free to make whatever arguments they like in our democracy in a public forum, they're free to protest in any way they like. But breaching the security of the Parliament is a crime and should be rigorously enforced. And this breach must be investigated so that it can't happen again.

GILBERT: Have you got any sense or any fees as to how they were able to do that? Because as you said, on the side is the grassed area. There have been fences put up to prevent people just simply walking across.

PATERSON: Yeah, we have to get to the bottom of that very quickly, because the purpose of the security design of the Parliament is to prevent people from outside the building getting on top of the roof or accessing the building in that way. So I would find it hard to believe that they've managed to do that, unless there's been a major failure in that design. I think it is a possibility that someone has signed them into the building, that they were in a secure area of the building, and that's how they got into the top of the building. That's more logical than having had to scale, you know, some pretty serious fencing and other security measures.

GILBERT: It looks like they're removing that now. We've got these pictures coming in now to the newsroom. There is someone behind there without a face covering. And they're taking this down. Now, I just wonder, when we talk about being able to sign in, if you're a staff member, it's not just members of Parliament who can sign people in. We should point that out.

PATERSON: That's right. So members of Parliament and through them, their staff have the right to sign in guests into the building. It would be a very serious thing if a parliamentarian or a staffer of a parliamentarian has signed in people who were engaging in this behaviour. That is a breach of the principle that we're allowed to access this building and our guests are allowed to access this building, but they must abide by the conventions and the rules of the building. So if that was how this occurred, I'd be extremely concerned. And the member or senator or their staff who was involved in signing someone in would have to lose their privileges to sign guests in in the future.

GILBERT: They are removing that banner. Let's hope that this is going to be an end to the protest because as you said, it's a democracy. We're allowed to protest. There is a freedom of protest. Of course it's inherent in what we are as a society. But when you go and breach security and put yourself in danger at a height that we're talking about there on a pillar, and then other security would have to go and risk their own safety to remove you, then it becomes really dangerous. So let's hope that this can be defused without any of that being needed.

PATERSON: You're right. It's completely unsafe for everybody involved. And as you know Kieran, every morning out the front of this building, there are organised protest. It's a completely legitimate part of our system. You drive past in the morning and on the grass in front of the parliament, there's always a disparate range of groups who come. It's unions, environmental activists, Falun Gong, you know, everyone's out there and welcome to be there. None of them try and climb on the roof, and they should not do so.

GILBERT: I do hope that they are removing that now, because the other thing is, and we've seen some groups of kids arrive, which is good to see that they're still able to go in and observe Parliament and learn about the democracy, there were initial fears that any visitors would be blocked because of this. And if you've travelled here, as most primary school kids do, it's an important part of their education. So you don't want that to be interrupted by this sort of thing.

PATERSON: That's right and we should want to have a parliament that's accessible to the Australian people. It's their parliament. They should be able to come here. That should be able to meet with their members of Parliament, they should be able to watch Question Time, engage with their parliamentary process. But if breaches like this happen, then the Parliament will respond with increased security. They'll make it harder for the public to access the building. And that's not what any of us should want to see.

GILBERT: That's not what we want to see. So just to wrap up then, in terms of where we are on this protest, the response, where to from here? You've said there needs to be an inquiry. But obviously it can't be one that goes over months. It needs we need to see immediate action here to bolster some of the security.

PATERSON: Well, by coincidence, Kieran, the Australian Federal Police are appearing for a Senate estimates spillover hearing this afternoon at 3:00, in the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee. And I will be asking them what they know so far about this breach, and I expect that they'll have some answers, at least about how this occurred. And then I think in due course, a more thorough inquiry will be required to understand how this happened.

GILBERT: Thanks for that reaction to the breaking news today, James Paterson, talk to you soon.


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