No contempt in Senate spy saga: report

Parliament house security staff did not breach the rules when they spied on Labor Senator John Faulkner, but the rules are to be changed to prevent it happening again.


An inquiry has found the use of a parliament security camera that showed Senator Faulkner receiving information from a whistleblower was not in contempt of the Senate.

In a report tabled in parliament on Friday, the inquiring committee said the Senate should have a new code of practice “which restores the focus on matters of security and safety, and emphasises accountability”.

The people running the CCTV system should be trained accordingly.

In February, senior officers from the Department of Parliamentary Services accessed nine minutes of security camera footage which showed a staffer placing an envelope under Senator Faulkner’s office door.

Access to the video had been authorised as part of a DPS code-of-conduct investigation into the staffer.

When Senator Faulkner found out about the breach he immediately sought an inquiry.

“If the provision of information to senators is monitored by electronic surveillance, then neither senators nor people who provide information to them can have any confidence in the security of their transactions,” he told the inquiry.

“(It) compromises the free performance by a senator of his duties and therefore represents, in my view, a very serious contempt.”

Department secretary Carol Mills argued the footage was properly released under guidelines which allowed its use in cases where it was needed to “provide evidence upon which to take criminal and civil proceedings”.

But she admitted there may have been an “inadvertent breach of the statement of purpose”.

Senator Faulkner has previously described the DPS as the “the worst administered government department” he had ever come across and has pursued issues to do with it for many years.