Skip to content Skip to main navigation

Opinion

Expert strata, facilities & building management services

Will building a fence around Parliament House really keep us safe?

By Rebecca Vassarotti - 14 September 2017 11

Photo: Jack Mohr.

As a long term resident of Canberra, I get frustrated that our city is seen by most Australians as synonymous with Parliament House and the politicians that work from there. Those of us who live, work and play in this beautiful city know that we are much more than this building that dominates our landscape.

Even though this is the case, Parliament House is still a building that I love. As a young person lucky enough to be at the official opening of Parliament House in 1988 with throngs of other school students invited to attend the event, I was aware that I was a witness to history. More than that, I was at a place where history was yet to be made, and even then understood how important this building would be to me, my family, my community and indeed the nation, given this is the building in which decisions are made that shape our lives.

At the time of its construction, I was imbued with the symbolism that sat behind the building’s design and loved how it has been designed to embody our unique democracy, one of egalitarianism and one which recognised that this was not just a politician’s house – this was our House. It made me proud to be Australian.

I have been delighted, and often moved, by the way in which it has lived up to its promise of being a people’s house to be shared with all Australians. From protests to war on the lawns, historic apologies in the chamber and grand events in the Halls, this is a place that many of us have shared with the people who represent us. Attending a function this week, I was struck with the life of the place, and I felt invigorated with the energy of a building that was bursting with activity and events. On a single ordinary day, there were launches of community organisations’ campaigns, lectures, delegations hosted, groups of school children being led throughout the halls, and the lawns being shared by delegations from Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Intersex and Queer (LGBTIQ) community and other groups. Parliamentarians were connecting with communities, hearing their views and engaging with all manner of people and issues – both inside and outside the building.

It was with great distress that I saw all this happening in view of a fence being erected to stop one of the most symbolic design elements of Parliament House – where the people get to walk over the political representatives of our nation. This is being done in the name of safety and protection from the threat of terrorism, but watching this blight being erected that will diminish some of the grandeur of our House, it felt more like the defacing of icons and artwork that we have seen in far away lands. I watched and hoped that this wasn’t the beginning of a time where we would experience less access to this place which is meant to be shared by Australians, and visitors as a place to meet, to learn, to share and to collaborate.

I want my family and the community to be safe, and I recognise that there are real threats from people who wish to harm us and our way of life. But in keeping us safe we need to ask what we are losing. In a time where our challenges and problems need us to connect with each other, understand different perspectives and work collaboratively to find different solutions, I ask why are we building walls and fences that separate us from the people who represent us?

I think we should look at different ways of dealing with terrorism and security threats rather than building fences and locking people out of Our Parliament House. I think we need to demand continued access to a place that belongs to all of us as Australians. What do you think?

What’s Your opinion?


Post a comment
Please login to post your comments, or connect with
11 Responses to
Will building a fence around Parliament House really keep us safe?
dungfungus 2:19 pm 18 Sep 17

Tim Benson said :

Having worked in the stone yard at Parliament House during the build and then later for ten yesrs as a political adviser I think the recent security measures are destroying the building and the Australian brand of democracy.. police armed with machine guns and ugly fences do nothing but create fear in the community. And further isolate our politicians from the people they are supposed to represent.. they then make a joke of these new meadures by jogging and walking to work ..,

“Having worked in the stone yard at Parliament House during the build…..”

I thought convict labour was abolished 150 years ago, Tim.

Blen_Carmichael 5:03 pm 16 Sep 17

Tim Benson said :

Having worked in the stone yard at Parliament House during the build and then later for ten yesrs as a political adviser I think the recent security measures are destroying the building and the Australian brand of democracy.. police armed with machine guns and ugly fences do nothing but create fear in the community.

Took my teenage son there the other day and saw the police at the entrance armed with semi-automatic rifles. Neither I nor my son experienced heart palpitations. Can’t speak for the tourists there but they were laughing and seemed to be enjoying themselves. Judging by the mix of nationalities, some of them were probably, if anything, surprised more of the officers weren’t brandishing such weapons.

Lucy Baker 5:01 pm 16 Sep 17

JC said :

Lucy Baker said :

Wrecking the architect’s statement – the people walking OVER the politicians- was a hell bad decision.

Not that I agree with the need, but can I ask is that actually being stopped? Would have thought it was still possible but by going through security and out through the top.

If you think that’s equivalent, you’re welcome to hold that view.

watto23 10:22 am 15 Sep 17

I’m still not sure what the fence stops….. I mean someone could walk up to it with a bag loaded with explosives and throw it over the fence. Or if you really wanted to assassinate a particular politician, they all are easily found during sitting weeks outside of parliament house.

The fence does nothing that suitably strong bollards at the bottom and cameras could not do. Plus cameras would also detect drones that can easily fly over the fence also.

Tim Benson 6:29 am 15 Sep 17

Having worked in the stone yard at Parliament House during the build and then later for ten yesrs as a political adviser I think the recent security measures are destroying the building and the Australian brand of democracy.. police armed with machine guns and ugly fences do nothing but create fear in the community. And further isolate our politicians from the people they are supposed to represent.. they then make a joke of these new meadures by jogging and walking to work ..,

dungfungus 9:53 pm 14 Sep 17

The only two potentially dangerous situations that could have been fatal for the occupants of Parliament House were the demonstration by a militant trade union which led to the doors being smashed down and the vehicle intrusion into the Great Hall. Neither of these events could be deemed to be of a terrorist nature fortunately and in fact, terrorists rarely attack hard targets like Houses of Parliament preferring to terrorise the population at large where the “soft” targets are.

It’s not terrorists that they want to keep out, it’s our own disaffected citizens.

JC 6:24 pm 14 Sep 17

Lucy Baker said :

Wrecking the architect’s statement – the people walking OVER the politicians- was a hell bad decision.

Not that I agree with the need, but can I ask is that actually being stopped? Would have thought it was still possible but by going through security and out through the top.

John Moulis 2:00 pm 14 Sep 17

“But in keeping us safe we need to ask what we are losing.”

I know what I lost when NPH was constructed. Picnics with the family at the barbecue area on the northern part of Capital Hill surrounded by bushland and a large willow tree. Riding my skateboard down the anticline surrounding the large flagpole in the centre of the hill. Seeing the Commemoration Stone in the actual spot where Canberra as a city was first proclaimed. And looking out from the viewing platform surrounding the flagpole believing that life was good and the best was yet to come.

Holden Caulfield 12:35 pm 14 Sep 17

I think it’s an awful outcome.

We’ll probably never know if genuine reasons for the fence’s installation really existed in the first place, because the decision makers will always hide behind the catch-all “security advice that can’t be discussed” line.

Let’s assume for a moment there are genuine threats to access the building and cause harm to those working and visiting inside. Is that fence really going to prevent anyone with enough will from doing so?

Lucy Baker 12:10 pm 14 Sep 17

Wrecking the architect’s statement – the people walking OVER the politicians- was a hell bad decision.

BadDad123 11:50 am 14 Sep 17

Various people were offered and received secret briefings on the threat the fence is protecting us from. Those people all withdrew their protests; ie – the Australian Institute of Architects and the NCA. If there is a real and genuine threat should we all be told what it is? No one is getting a truck bomb up the grass onto the hill and security and AFP are there to deal with other lone actor type threats – so what is the fence really for?

Related Articles

CBR Tweets

Sign up to our newsletter

Top
Copyright © 2017 Riot ACT Holdings Pty Ltd. All rights reserved.
www.the-riotact.com | www.b2bmagazine.com.au | www.thisiscanberra.com

Search across the site