Feds ponder jamming journo comms in Australian Parliament

Because terrorism, apparently

Canberra's appetite for security theatre could soon see comms blackouts in Parliament House as a response to terrorist threats.

The proposal emerged by way of a briefing with the president of the press gallery, David Speers, who told Fairfax Media it's part of a plan to ramp up parliamentary security.

As well as armed Australian Federal Police (AFP) patrols of the press gallery's office space in parliament, Speers said the plan includes jamming “telephone and internet links in the event of a terrorist threat” or some other un-named variety of security incident.

The communications blackout plans apparently include installing mobile phone jammers in the building and “blocking other outwards non-government telecommunications links from Parliament House”.

The journalists are unsurprisingly wary about the combination of AFP patrols in the gallery offices, communication blackouts, and an edict that if there's a security incident, the gallery should lock itself in its offices.

+Comment: The gallery has recently discovered the debate over data retention in Australia, realising that journalist data will be swept up along with everyone else's, something highlighted by a Liberal MP's ill-judged and since-deleted Tweet humorously threatening a trawl of a gallery hack's metadata.

The security theatre involved in blacking out media communications on security grounds is of a different order entirely: as well as being a “militarisation” of the space, as Labor senator Penny Wong put it, it's hard to see how security will be improved by the proposal. ®

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