The mandarins of Parliament House are wasting no time addressing
important issues during the three month recess; new measures are being
introduced to protect politicians from dangerous members of the public
– and this involves, naturally, a brand new layer of useless paperwork.

The latest security circular from the guardians of our welfare at
Parliament House, issued on Friday, announces a tightening of rules
allowing Parliamentary dwellers to sponsor visitors.

In future, not only will parliamentary pass-holders have to scan their
pass for a visitor (whether escorted or non-escorted) they will now
have to complete a form each time they wish to sign someone in with a
pass that allows them to wander the hallowed halls.

Currently, Parliament dwellers with a standard photo ID pass must sign
a form when it is issued stating that the sponsor is responsible for
the actions and behaviour of their visitors. Emails and circulars are
sent around regularly to remind them about the rule – so no excuses for
not knowing.

So what security advantage is accrued by adding the weight of hundreds of pages of paper each day to the process?

If re-enforcement of the rule is thought necessary, why not show a
large-print copy to the sponsor at the entrance? The security staffer
might ask: “Do you agree to this rule? If so, you may swipe your card
and I will issue an unaccompanied pass under those conditions. If you
do not, swipe your card and I will issue an escorted pass.”

Either way, the sponsor details are captured and there is no paper, no waste of time, and the same result for security.

Still, someone’s now going to be kept busy in the back office printing,
distributing, collecting, collating and storing all those forms. Let
alone if they plan to have anyone actually processing the forms by
entering them into a database or spreadsheet.

The new procedures, explains Department of Parliamentary Services
Hilary Penfold in her Friday memo, are “to ensure that sponsors are
aware of their role and responsibilities in signing visitors into the
building.”

One parliamentary insider has a simpler explanation: “It’s really quite
simple, they just don’t want anyone wandering the hallowed halls. All
these wanderers create movement and clog up the corridors, so that your
average senator has difficulty fitting through.” According to
Hilary Penfold, there is more to come. We await the final results
of the department’s parliamentary pass review with interest.

Peter Fray

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