Terrorism scare at Gympie electoral headquarters

A TERROR scare at Gympie's Tozer St electoral headquarters yesterday briefly stopped the processing of votes, but was not enough to stop democracy taking its course.  

Returning officer Ken Garner said he and staff were in the process of scrutinising votes, fresh from the post office, separating them from accompanying voter identification details and placing them anonymously in the ballot box.  

Police were called when one of the Electoral Commission workers found suspicious lumpy material in one of the envelopes about 1pm.  

Police and emergency crews quickly converged on the ECQ's temporary office and separated those staff who had come into contact with the suspicious item.  

Candidate Ian Petersen said he had just arrived to see Mr Garner, when "suddenly all hell broke loose".  

"Half the Queensland police force and half the Queensland Fire and Emergency Service seemed to appear suddenly and began ordering some ECQ staff to stay where they were and others to move to one side."  

A 26-year-old Lower Wonga man may not yet realise the fuss he caused when an apparently harmless grainy substance was found in his postal ballot envelope.  

 

Mr Garner said the incident had not held up the processes of democracy for long, despite the lockdown.  

"Don't worry, we've got plenty of work to do," he said, as those inside continued processing votes in two elections.   One is the postal ballot, currently underway to elect the new Gympie mayor and the other is the processing of postal votes still coming in from Saturday's State Election.  

Mr Garner referred all inquiries to the Electoral Commission of Queensland's head office in Brisbane.  

Acting QFES station officer Tony Scott said his crews had isolated some staff pending the arrival of QFES scientific response unit officers to analyse the substance, found in one voting envelope.  

The officers, who came up from Brisbane, quickly analysed the substance and found it harmless.  

Police said investigations would continue to see how the grainy material found its way into a voting en

Electoral officer Ken Garner. Photo: Greg Miller / Gympie Times
Electoral officer Ken Garner. Photo: Greg Miller / Gympie Times

velope, but a spokesman in Brisbane said they did not believe it had been put there for the purpose of causing disruption or fear.  

The office returned to normal operations just before 4pm and Mr Garner's crew resumed their work, helping with inquiries and directing voters to the ballot boxes for hand delivering their votes.  

It is understood votes are flowing in quickly and that at least half of Gympie Mayor By-election votes are already in.  

Gympie Times

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