Do you remember that fence being built around Parliament House right now?
The 2.6-metre-tall fence being erected on the lawns of parliament is part of a $126 million security upgrade of Parliament House being undertaken by the Department of Parliamentary Services, after politicians signed off on the upgrade late last year.
Detail about the security upgrades is scant, including how much the fence itself costs, because those responsible for the upgrades argue that to release full detail of the upgrades to the public would compromise security.
But apparently the information is out there...somewhere.
In a Senate Estimates hearing on Monday, Department of Parliamentary Services (DPS) secretary Rob Stefanic confirmed that a contractor to the department (later revealed to be BAE Systems) had lost a 1,000-page security manual associated with the $126 million upgrade in November last year, but that the department had not been made aware of the missing manual until February this year.
"As soon as I was advised — or, as soon as DPS was advised, an immediate process commenced to inform and advise and investigate," he said.
Senate president Stephen Parry said to Labor senator Kimberley Kitching there was no evidence it was stolen, only that it was lost.
"You [Kitching] have indicated a manual is lost," he said. "There is no indication or confirmation that that manual has gone anywhere."
The Australian Federal Police was informed at the time and an audit has been conducted into how the manual went missing.
DPS official Paul Cooper told the committee that the audit found there had not been a "substantial breach of security". But despite this reassurance, when asked by Labor senate leader Penny Wong if the government knew who had the manual, Parry said he didn't know.
WONG: To this stage, as I understand the president's evidence, he is saying we can't find any evidence that it's gone into the hands of someone untoward but we don't know where it is.
WONG: So we don't know who's got it. Is that right?
PARRY: It's definitely lost.
The contractor who lost the manual was asked to improve how they handle sensitive material, but the organisation is still working on the security upgrade. Parry said he was confident that there was no security compromise.
"You start off with the worst-case scenario; once the investigation was completed, our fears were allayed considerably ... But we're comfortable at the moment that there is no compromise to the security arrangements at Parliament House," he said.
The upgrades will be completed by December 2018.
UPDATE: BAE Systems confirmed the "security incident".
A spokesperson for BAE Systems told BuzzFeed News that the matter had been investigated after a "security incident".
“Following identification of the security incident, we conducted a thorough investigation and are confident that we have the processes and procedures in place to avoid the possibility of an incident of this nature happening in the future," the spokesperson said.
“We also understand that there has been no compromise to the security of Parliament House.”
Josh Taylor is a Senior Reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.
Contact Josh Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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