Slow reaction to loss of parliament house security manual revealed

Security fence nearing completion at Parliament House in Canberra on Monday 9 October 2017. Fedpol. Photo: Andrew Meares It took government contractor BAE Systems almost a year from the loss of a 1000-page security manual to update documentation on its reporting responsibilities to the department of parliamentary services, it has been revealed.

The security manual was lost in November 2016, and investigated in February 2017, but the loss and the investigation were only made public at Senate estimates in October.

A new timeline of events released through questions on notice shows the BAE Systems employee realised the manual was missing on November 11, 2016, but waited 11 days to formally report the loss on November 22. It was almost three months before the company alerted the Department of Parliamentary Services on February 7, just after 8pm.

The department’s acting assistant secretary for security alerted the n Federal Police on February 9, and it was discussed with the n Security Intelligence Organisation on February 21. Then-attorney-general George Brandis, then-justice minister Michael Keenan and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull were not alerted by the department to the loss.

While BAE Systems handed a written report on the incident to the department on March 16, and findings from an investigation of the incident were reported on March 27, it took BAE Systems until November 3 to update its site management plan “to improve the handling of security incidents and to enhance its reporting responsibilities to DPS”.

The site management plan includes a new section on security incident management and lists the minimum information requirements for the plan’s security register.

The manual contained confidential details about the controversial security upgrades at Parliament House, but then-Senate president Stephen Parry told the hearing it was an “early draft” and “some portions of that early draft are now redundant”. More than a year after its loss, it has not been found.

Parry and parliamentary services officials downplayed any risks associated with the lost manual, which covered security concerns that would take place in the future, and not matters that had already taken place.

Department of Parliamentary Services first assistant secretary Paul Cooper told Senate estimates in October that an investigation found there had been “no substantial breach of security”.

While Labor Senator Kimberley Kitching requested all correspondence between the department and BAE Systems , the department claimed that such information was sensitive and could not be released to the public.

A request for correspondence between department employees was also rejected, citing security concerns.