Little progress made as leaders meet at debriefing
Business at the Mean Bean Cafe has been brisk these past few weeks. Apart from the regulars and truck drivers who drop in for their morning fix of coffee and toasted bacon and egg sandwiches, journalists covering the search for flight MH370 have added to revenues.
Located on the side of the Great Northern Highway just down the road from the entrance to the Pearce Australian air force base, the coffee is welcome on a cold morning.
Dozens of journalists from all over the world covering this story have been camped inside the base since the search for MH370 moved into Australian waters nearly three weeks ago.
Pearce, an Australian air force training base, has also seen its numbers increase with an additional 550 to 600 airmen and women from several countries searching the vast emptiness of the Indian Ocean for clues into the flight’s March 8 disappearance.
Journalists were told to be at the base by 6:30 am for the arrival of Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his Malaysian counterpart Najib Razak.
Some media crews have been living out of camper vans on the base. Locally, there is little accommodation available so most of us make the trip out from Perth.
When the search for the missing Boeing 777 moved to waters off Western Australia, Pearce became the media focal point. First, the media were parked along the main road that runs from Perth to Geraldton, which is roughly 400 km to the north. Vehicles would roar through this spot clocking well over 100 km/h, kicking up dust and loose gravel.
As the numbers began to swell and safety became an issue, the military moved the media inside the main gate, where they have been camped ever since in the hopes of getting any information, no matter how small, for their morning or evening bulletins.
This morning offered us two prime ministers and hopefully some news. But the leaders had prepared speeches and coverage was down to a small media pool due to time and space. There were no questions.
Journalists began arriving just as dawn broke over the town of Bullsbrook, which is home to Pearce.
As the media pool was being assembled, one outlet was noticeably missing: the Malaysian news agency Bernama. With the Australian prime minister due any minute, time was getting tight for the crew from Bernama.
When the crew finally arrived, the small media pool was taken across a car park and inside a building in front of the main media camp. Airmen and women stood a few meters apart to make sure journalists not included in the pool did not venture across the street.
At 7:30 am, a small convoy of white Australian government cars drove through the main gate and disappeared behind the building out of view.
Fifteen minutes later, the Malaysian prime minister’s motorcade arrived. It, too, disappeared behind the building in front of the press camp.
The head of the Joint Agency Coordination Center, former defense chief Angus Houston, briefed the two leaders about the search. There was nothing new in what he said to the two prime ministers.
The whole thing lasted no more than five minutes before the media pool was escorted back to the media camp just inside the front gates.
Inside the building, the leaders met with about 50 airmen and women from eight nations involved in the search. We were told that both leaders thanked them for their efforts.
Down the road at the Mean Bean Cafe, the coffee was hot and the police who were waiting to escort Najib back to Perth waited on their motorcycles. No coffee for them this morning. Contact the writer at karlwilson@chinadailyapac. com
Chinese relatives of passengers on the missing flight MH370 rest before a meeting at a hotel in Beijing on Thursday. The hunt for physical evidence into the jet’s crash has turned up nothing.