Parliament security works see Comcars damaged

Parliament security works see Comcars damaged

"That bloody fence."

Victorian independent senator Derryn Hinch has slammed security fortification works continuing at Parliament House, revealing three government-owned cars have been damaged during construction.

Mad as hell: Senator Derryn Hinch.

Mad as hell: Senator Derryn Hinch.

Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Entrances for members of the House of Representatives and the Senate are currently surrounded by construction zones as part of the works, with new steel security fencing being built on all four sides and technology being upgraded across the precinct.

Senator Hinch complained about damage to taxpayer-funded Comcars this week, caused by retractable electronic bollards deploying underneath the vehicles mid-transport.

Works around an entrance used by members of Parliament.

Works around an entrance used by members of Parliament.

Photo: Jamila Toderas

"That bloody fence," he wrote on Twitter. "More $$$ needed. Parliament House security fence work has interfered with electronic bollard triggers.

"Three Comcars damaged so far by misfires. One gear box wrecked."

A Finance Department spokeswoman confirmed the damage had occurred but could not say what the cost of repairs would be.

"During the most recent sitting period, three vehicles were damaged when accessing Parliament House," they said.

Bollards in place at Parliament House.

Bollards in place at Parliament House.

Photo: Chris Lane

"The damage and any associated costs are being assessed. The department is currently working with the Department of Parliamentary Services in regard to the matter."

A Department of Parliamentary Services spokewoman said three incidents in November caused damage.

"The bollards were operated manually on each occasion so the incidents were caused by human error.

"There was no damage to bollards and the estimated cost of the damage to the vehicles is not yet known to the Department of Parliamentary Services. Changed arrangements are now in place to reduce the likelihood of further incidents of this nature."

The Comcar service provides chauffeured transport for the Prime Minister, the Governor-General, members of parliament, judges and guests of government.

Last year the service transported 44 international guests and important visitors, including the kings and queens of the Netherlands and Jordan, and the prime ministers of Singapore and Israel.

A ubiquitous sight around Canberra, Comcars have an enviable record. The department's annual report showed 99.6 per cent of reservations in 2016-17 were completed without service failure.

But the fleet has come up against Parliament's bollards before.

In 2006 then senator Bob Brown was speaking to ABC radio when he spied the Senate president Paul Calvert through his office window.

Senator Calvert's Comcar had found itself stuck at the bottom of the driveway when one of the new bollards malfunctioned.

The then Greens leader narrated for listeners as Senator Calvert emerged from his car, "slung his suit jacket over his shoulder and started the walk up the hill to the doors".

The bollards - which cost $2 million to install in late 2005 - were found to be more than effective, blocking entry 18 times in their first two months of operation and prompting a blunt assessment from Senator Calvert to the red chamber.

"I suppose we'll be hoist on our own bollard," he said.

In October, officials conceded they had no idea where a 1000-page security manual related to the $126 million security works ended up.

Defence contractor BAE Systems Australia admitted it was responsible for the blunder.

Construction of the prefabricated 2.6 metre and 1.2 metre steel fences around Parliament is expected to be completed by June 2018.

Tom McIlroy is a political reporter for the Financial Review in the federal press gallery at Parliament House.

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