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Biological agent sent to Indonesian Embassy -

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Biological agent sent to Indonesian Embassy

Reporter: Michael Brissenden

KERRY O'BRIEN: Having endured months of abusive phone calls and even direct threats, the fears of
Indonesian and Australian authorities have today been realised. In what could be the first attack
of its kind in Australia, the Indonesian Embassy was today sealed off after receiving a letter
containing a biological agent. Up to 50 staff at the embassy have been quarantined as a result.
It's still not clear exactly what the package contained, but the Prime Minister says the attack is
a reckless criminal act that could damage our relationship with Indonesia. As yet, no-one has
claimed responsibility, but after months of prominent and, at times, hysterical coverage of the
Corby case, the motivation seems clear enough. From Canberra, political editor Michael Brissenden
reports.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Has populist passion and public anger led inevitably to this? It looks like a
training exercise, but this is real - quite possibly the first biological attack in Australian
history. Outside the Indonesian Embassy, the fire-engines were standing by, the body suits were
deployed, and, inside, up to 50 staff were quarantined. Whatever the biological agent was that was
sent to the Indonesian Embassy, there can be little doubt what motivated the attack.

PRESS REPORTER: Do you believe that this is a result of the Corby conviction in Indonesia?

JOHN HOWARD, PRIME MINISTER: Well, it would be a remarkable coincidence if it were not. I mean, I
can't prove that, but, if it is, can I say to those responsible: you will not achieve your
objective. Quite apart from the murderous criminality of doing something like this, and the
indifference and contempt for human life that it displays, it won't achieve the objective. It will
have the opposite effect.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: The fate of Schapelle Corby has gripped the nation for months and the hysteria
surrounding her case reached its zenith in the past few days. This has been a trial played out in
the full media glare in Bali and here in Australia. The passions stirred by what many clearly
believe is an injustice have also spurred a race for ratings and circulation, special program,
blanket television coverage, screaming front-page headlines and talkback hysteria.

ALAN JONES, RADIO ANNOUNCER, 2GB: The judges she addressed yesterday don't speak English. And won't
get a translation of her comments until today. What's that say about justice, Balinese style? I
thought she did brilliantly, Schapelle Corby, in very difficult circumstances, and in the fair
dinkum stakes, this ought to mean game, set and match.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Many Indonesia analysts have watched the frenzied media coverage of the past
few weeks with dismay.

PROFESSOR ANDREW MACINTYRE, INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, ANU: On the one hand, there have been some
attempts to have careful and dispassionate analysis of the case and the wider implications of it
and on the other there's been hysterical headlines that blow things out of all proportion and,
ultimately, don't help Schapelle Corby, and don't help the relationship between our two countries.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: This ugly and at times xenophobic response to Indonesian justice has put the
government in an extremely difficult position. Well aware of popular opinion, the Foreign Minister
has, over the past few days, appealed repeatedly for a calm and rational response to the verdict in
the Bali court. This afternoon things moved to an altogether more serious plane.

ALEXANDER DOWNER, FOREIGN AFFAIRS MINISTER: And I can advise the House now that an envelope has
been taken to a laboratory at the Canberra hospital for further analysis, at 12:25 today. The
initial analysis of the powder has tested positive as a biological agent, though further testing
will need to be carried out to determine what that substance actually is.

KIM BEAZLEY, OPPOSITION LEADER: This sort of outrageous behaviour must not be encouraged. An
atmosphere which encourages it must not be sustained.

JOHN HOWARD: But this is a very serious development for our country and I can't overstate the sense
of concern I feel that such a recklessly criminal act should have been committed.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: The Indonesia-Australia relationship has been one of the diplomatic success
stories of the past few years. Just a few months ago during his visit to Australia, the Indonesian
President was moved enough to express sentiments that would have been all but impossible a few
years ago.

DR SUSILO BAMBANG YUDHOYONO, INDONESIAN PRESIDENT: I am convinced we can take this friendship
between Indonesia and Australia far, very far, for we now live in geopolitical and geoeconomic
environments.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: At the time, many Indonesian analysts like Professor Andrew Macintyre, thought
this was the most significant breakthrough ever in our diplomatic relationship with Indonesia.
Today, he says those strong government-to-government ties should hold, but the real concern is what
impact this will have among ordinary Indonesians.

PROFESSOR ANDREW MACINTYRE: The fear has to be that many Indonesians will conclude from this
incident that their latent fears that Australia's not the warm and friendly country that it
presents itself as is in fact true.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: And this is something the government in Jakarta is well aware of as well.
Anti-Australian sentiment in Indonesia has certainly played out strongly in the past, and the
Australian Embassy in Jakarta has borne the brunt of that in the form of protests and even direct
attack itself. This afternoon, the Indonesian Foreign Ministry seemed keenly aware of the emotional
response that might be stirred up as a result of today's events.

DR MARTI NATALEGAWA, SPOKESMAN, INDONESIAN DEPARTMENT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS: It's our responsibility
as a government to put, you know, the lead in terms of not allowing things to get out of hand. We
will be keen to send out the message among the Indonesian public that this is probably the act of,
you know, someone that's not too rational in terms of mind-set, and that it should not be portrayed
as being an act of hostilities on the part of Australians in general. So we would want to make sure
that we do not have...we can contain this and not let things get out of hand.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: The Indonesians also have little doubt what has sparked the attack.

DR MARTI NATALEGAWA: The thing is, whether we like it or not, as part and parcel of the attention
that the court case has been obtaining in Australia, we've been receiving certain threats against
our embassies and diplomatic missions in Australia.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: The question now is: what will the diplomatic consequences of what appears to
be a singular irrational act?

JOHN HOWARD: Of course it's damaging, and that's why I'm so alarmed about it and so concerned about
it. It's not helpful. If it's related in any way to the Corby case, can I say to the perpetrators:
you have not achieved your objective. In fact, you have made it harder for the poor girl.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Here and in Jakarta, everyone is well aware how delicate this is. But the hope
is, the hard won diplomatic detente that's developed over the past few years is resilient enough to
withstand the peculiar pressures of a trial played out in the media and the consequences that now
appears to have delivered.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Political editor Michael Brissenden.