Over-zealous Parliament House security guards have been blamed for the bizarre incident where a whiteboard was wheeled out to shield jobs minister Michaelia Cash during Senate Estimates earlier this month.
In answers to questions on notice, Senate president Scott Ryan says Cash or her office did not request added security, following her controversial threat to name "every single young woman" from Labor leader Bill Shorten's office she had heard rumours about.
Cash withdrew the statement twice, but refused to apologise.
After the outburst Cash went into hiding for a day, only to emerge behind a whiteboard as she entered Senate Estimates.
The incident quickly became a running joke online, and the minister has been mocked about it ever since.
Journalists can be heard heckling "minister, why do you need so much protection?" and "why do you need a screen, minister?" as Cash disappeared behind the screen.
Ryan blamed the series of events that led to the whiteboard incident on Parliament House security guards.
"A PSS (Parliamentary Security Staff) Team Leader reported that members of the media were in breach of the 'Rules for media-related activity in Parliament House and its precincts'," Ryan said.
The security guard complained to the Deputy Usher of the Black Rod about the media filming in the corridor outside Senate Estimates, then decided to take action, Ryan said.
"A PSS (Parliamentary Security Staff) Team Leader made the decision to position the whiteboard across the corridor to obstruct media from filming towards the Committee Rooms as the Minister approached the committee room.
"The decision was made at about 13:45 hours."
Ryan claims the media were filming in a prohibited area and thereby contravened paragraph 4.6(f) of the 'Rules for media-related activity in Parliament House and its precincts'.
"Media were set up in the area near Committee room 2R1," he said. "A number of media cameras were pointing towards the Committee Rooms which is a breach of the 'Rules for media-related activity in Parliament House and its precincts'."
The paragraph in question states that media related activity in private areas is prohibited:
(a) in all car parks;
(b) at security screening areas, and of security arrangements;
(c) on the House of Representatives and Senate chamber floors;
(d) in the Members’/Senators’ lobbies adjacent to the House of Representatives and Senate chambers;
(e) at Aussies Cafe, the Staff Dining Room and the Members’ and Guests’ Dining Room (with the exception of ‘pre-interview’ discussions—not recordings); and
(f) in corridors and other private circulation areas not expressly provided for in these rules.
Ryan said the media were informed they were in breach of the filming rules by the Usher of the Black Rod about one hour before the incident, and again at the time of the incident, by security guards.
"The Deputy Usher of the Black Rod was called to address the media and ask them to adhere to the 'Rules for media-related activity in Parliament House and its precincts', however he arrived after the whiteboard was moved."
No formal complaints about the incident have been received by the Department of Parliamentary Services, although Ryan notes that some of the media who were present made their dissatisfaction known at the time.
Cash has still not answered a series of questions made to her office on notice after the incident.
Alice Workman is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Canberra.
Contact Alice Workman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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