While Rudd ignores Rees and Barry tries every combination of smoke and mirrors to try and make himself look thinner… there’s trouble a-brewing on Macquarie Street and for once it has nothing to do with politics … sort of.

NSW Parliament House security guards (PSA-membership-holding public servants) have been told they now have two weeks to clean out their lockers — they are to be replaced by members of a special branch of the police force. At the moment, the regular security guards are still around while the new guys get their bearings, making for some tense locker-room glances. The news isn’t new — pretty sure it’s even been covered in Crikey.

The problem isn’t who’s going; it’s who they are being replaced with.

You see the “old guard” are a friendly bunch. They know the Members and their staff; they even know the Ministerial staff who only appear during sitting weeks. They don’t get nasty if one of the cleaners uses their master key to helpfully open an office door for a forgetful staff member. They happily wave obviously unthreatening visitors through security (great for the Members who would otherwise be forced to stand in the foyer while their local branch of the CWA is frisked for handguns). They’ll even let you park downstairs for free if the car park isn’t busy and they know you.

The “new guard” are the opposite. They are cold, unfriendly and un-welcoming. They’ve all read the rule book and if they’re not reading passages of it aloud to admonish some poor volunteer staffer who stepped out of line at the cafeteria they’re using it to pat you down at the door. They don’t like visitors and those CWA who were allowed to visit last week; well they’re now a listed terrorist organisation. Everyone is viewed with suspicion. There’s no room for flexibility and the once casual museum-that-happens-to-be-the-Parliament is now locked down with Federal Parliament-esque fervour.

But the most serious problem of all is that they don’t know anyone. In a building with so many fragile egos, it’s their biggest fault. Members have been stopped at the door and asked to go through the metal detectors, because they weren’t carrying their plastic swipe card — most MPs and MLCs have NEVER carried their security cards. Members have been prevented from signing in guests for the same reason — forced to ring their own staff whose looks (usually, at this point, a neat blend of anger and sheer horror) are usually enough to explain to the guards that they’ve done the wrong thing.

There might by some Belinda-Neal-style “don’t you know who I am” going on but it’s tough for the powerbrokers to go from “hello Minister” to “excuse me Sir, can I see some ID?”

Puffed chests and police-issue pistols have replaced the friendly (though sometimes disconcerting) “hello”.

The NSW Parliament has new guards, guns and security doors … but somehow you just can’t help feeling a little less safe.

Peter Fray

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