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E-pass readers no replacement for guards

Senators in Australia express concerns that access to parliament might be compromised if bodyguards were to be replaced with electronic pass readers.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

Australian senators have expressed concerns that their access to parliament might be compromised if bodyguards were to be replaced with electronic pass readers.

Although there are no current concrete plans to bring in an electronic system, Senators pre-emptively voiced fears today in Senate estimates' Finance and Public Administration Committee.

Liberal Senator for Victoria Scott Ryan said any proposal to replace guards who verify the identity of people entering the parliament with electronic readers should be put to a parliamentary committee before being implemented by the Department of Parliamentary Services.

"It's fair to say that there's a fair degree of resistance to this amongst senators and members," Ryan said. The resistance to the electronic system, he said, stemmed from the potential to miss a vote on legislation if their ID cards were misplaced.

"How's it going to sound when someone's missed a division because the pass has fallen off their belt and they've been locked out of the door?"

Department secretary Alan Thompson reassured the senators that they would have a say before any new system was brought in.

"There would be a consultative process [with senators and members]," Department Secretary Alan Thompson told the senators. "There's nothing specific before us at this stage. You can take it that there would be a consultative process."

Ryan said he would prefer that, if such an electronic identity system were implemented, it would be voluntary for people to use. Thompson said electronic card readers would be useful for a number of reasons.

"It would actually help a lot with access in non-sitting periods. Having a system in place where everyone carried a pass where you could swipe through doors would help everybody," he said, adding it would also help the bottom line for the department.

"It's no secret that our budget is constrained. At some stage we need to make various savings and this might be one of the contributors."

This story was first posted on ZDNet Australia.

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