White powder sweepings



Crikey Daily – Tuesday, 14 June

Christian Kerr writes:

Have Australia’s “white powder” scares been just that – scares? Far be
it for me to disagree with my colleague Hugo Kelly, let alone a veteran
observer like Inside Canberra‘s Rob Chalmers, but security sources say there have been hard facts behind the flaps.

Around a dozen cases have been potentially harmful – the most serious
when an envelope containing powder sent to a senior bureaucrat was
opened in a car. The spooks, it
appears, prefer to play them down.

The “white powder” saga began just days after Schapelle Coby’s
sentence was announed and was covered by Stephen Mayne in the Crikey
Daily:

Over-cooking the white powder

Crikey Daily – Thursday, 2 June

By Stephen Mayne

John Howard is the past master of cooking up a national security scare
as a diversion – and yesterday’s effort with the white powder sent to
the Indonesian Embassy in Canberra was one of his best efforts yet.

All the talk about lax security at Australia’s airports was suddenly
lost as our intrepid PM took on a demeanor equivalent to the 9/11
aftermath, declaring that an unprecedented incident had occurred with a
biological agent arriving in the mail at Indonesia’s flagship
Australian building.

Now it looks like we’re probably dealing
with some sort of slug repellant, but the BBC has been reporting that
anthrax was sent in the mail and the Indonesian media is full of
reports suggesting terrorists are alive and well in Australia. One
idiot slug poisoner out of Victoria does not a terrorist nation make,
but you wouldn’t believe it Googling the story around the world today.

The media, especially Channel Nine, is very much to blame for creating
the Schapelle Corby bandwagon, but John Howard cranked it right up
yesterday in what was a completely unnecessary over-reaction. Stay
tuned for plenty of copycat acts.

Another “white powder” alert at Parliament House

Crikey Daily – Thursday, 9 June

Hugo Kelly reports:

Parliament’s top bureaucrat, Hilary Penfold, this morning interrupted
the quiet slumber on Capital Hill with an alert headed: “White powder
incident in Parliament House.” Has a cocaine smuggling ring been busted
in Canberra? Maybe not:

From: Penfold, Hilary (DPS)
Sent: Thursday, 9 June 2005 9:47 AM
To: SEN-Department; SEN-Senators; SEN-SenStaff; REPS-Department; REPS-Members; REPS-MemStaff; Hazell, Annette (DOFA);
Subject: White powder incident in Parliament House

Another package of white powder has been detected in the Loading Dock.
The incident has been contained in the Loading Dock, and ACT emergency
services have been called. The loading dock has been closed, and as a
result there will be delays in the delivery of mail within the building
today. However, there is no danger to people in the building. Further
information will be provided in due course.

AAP
reports suspicious packages have also arrived at the British High
Commission and the US, Japanese and South Korean embassies in Canberra.
These are all countries that sent troops to Iraq.

How the government handles “white powder”

Crikey Daily – Friday, 10 June

Hugo Kelly reports:

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.