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$60m upgrade: Cost of Parliament House fence kept secret to ‘deter terrorists’

A new fence will cut across the lawns at the front of Parliament House. Photo: Andrew Meares Senate President Stephen Parry is keeping secret security upgrades planned for Parliament House. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

The cost of a controversial security fence being installed outside Canberra’s Parliament House has to be kept secret because the price tag could aid a terrorist attack, according to the federal government.

Speaker Tony Smith and Senate President Stephen Parry have refused to release information about the 2.6 metre steel fence since last year, when plans for security upgrades and fortification across the sloping lawns were rushed through Parliament.

At Senate estimates hearings on Monday, officials from the Department of Parliamentary Services confirmed for the first time the location of the fence would be about one third of the distance up the famous lawn from street level.

When asked how much of the $60 million in security upgrades would be spent on the fence, Senator Parry said the information was sensitive and could only be explained in secret hearings.

“One of the issues we have is we start breaking down individual components in the public arena… if we start breaking down too much of the financial costs, and what’s being spent on what, people who might want to do us harm can use that information in different ways,” he said.

“There’s a composite figure and it involves many elements of security enhancements to Parliament House. To break that down could compromise things, but we’re always happy to do it in camera at a later stage of this committee.”

No public consultation has been undertaken on the plan, which Senator Parry said was “well progressed”.

The n Federal Police, ASIO, the Attorney-General’s Department and other agencies have supported the fence. It is expected to be covered with foliage to lessen the visual impact to architect Romaldo Giurgola’s original design.

Senator Parry said reports a security moat had also been considered for Parliament were incorrect, but one proposal for two ditches near roadways – known as ha-has – was briefly explored.

“That had some serious technical difficulties and could not be proceeded with,” he told the hearing.

“It was not a moat, not around Parliament House, never to be filled with water or crocodiles or anything like that,” he said.

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