Anyone visiting the Australian parliament with their face covered will be forced to sit in an enclosure behind glass in the gallery under new security measures.
The department of parliamentary services, run by speaker Bronwyn Bishop and senate president Stephen Parry, announced a raft of changes in response to an “increased threat environment,” in a memo which says:
Persons with facial coverings entering the galleries of the House of Representatives and Senate will be seated in the enclosed galleries. This will ensure that persons with facial coverings can continue to enter the Chamber galleries, without needing to be identifiable.
Whilst these policies are under review, and given the large numbers of visitors to Parliament House, it is prudent to implement an additional layer of security controls.
Armed federal police will now be in charge of building security and all visitors to non-public parts of the building will have to show photo ID. Up until now, visitors could be signed in by an accredited person. Sponsored passes, often used by lobbyists, will be suspended.
The glassed-in area is normally used for school children, while regular visitors sit in the open looking down on the parliamentary floor.
The moves comes as conservative MPs push to “ban the burqa” in parliament, although Greens senator Richard di Natale says that no-one wearing a burqa has ever visited parliament.
Greens leader senator Christine Milne called the move “disgraceful” and “an appalling development for Australia”.
“Muslim women will have gone through the entire screening process before they enter the building,” Milne said. “This is treating Muslim women as second class citizens. It is not about security.
“We have to show all Australians that we do not support discrimination,” she said
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