Yesterday’s “white powder” incident at Parliament House apparently turned out to be a hoax – the most recent of many. Veteran galley correspondent Rob Chalmers reports in his Inside Canberra newsletter today that the government’s handling of similar scares is developing a pattern.

“Whatever else could be said about the manner this was handled, Howard and Downer clearly misled Australians,” he wrote of last week’s scare at the Indonesian embassy. “No responsible journalist would have reported on this incident in the reckless manner adopted by the PM and the foreign minister. Surely they would have known there have been some 369 white powder incidents in Australia since 9/11 in 2001 (including seven in the ACT on Thursday) and every one of them have turned out to be a hoax.”

Writes Chalmers: “Incidentally, another package of white powder turned up at the Indonesia Embassy on Tuesday. Police said the alarm was raised and the well-rehearsed emergency services procedure was commenced. The Embassy was reopened “only hours later” when the powder was found to be harmless. How come it took “only hours” to discover the powder was harmless when it took two days when last week’s incident occurred? ” A fair question.