Jun 142007

Watchdog probes Howard’s Kirribilli function.

My perspective on this shameful Kirribilli House party-for-the-rusted-on shindig is a plain and simple one.

  1. Kirribilli House is a part of the national estate, owned by the people of Australia, not the Government of Australia;
  2. The Lodge, Canberra, is also owned by the people, and is the Prime Minister’s official residence;
  3. Kirribilli House is classed as the Prime Minister’s ’official Sydney residence’, but has not always been so and was never intended to be so until Menzies, like Howard, decided he enjoyed Sydney more than the nation’s capital, Canberra.
  4. Both residences are maintained through appropriations from the annual budget to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

On the basis that Howard, like Menzies, prefers to live in Sydney for somewhat parochial reasons, does the logic follow that should Kevin Rudd win the big seat, we can expect him, Therese and brood to take up residence in, say, Newstead House? After all, it, like The Lodge and Kirribilli House is on the national register, open for public tours on defined dates, and so on. It might need a subtle renovation to accommodate the new PM’s mores, but I dare say that the odd million wouldn’t be seen as out of place, given what’s been spent maintaining the existing so-called official residences.

Of course, the usual remonstrance would ensue from those who oppose the new ’official residences’ principal occupant. Claims of undue expense, the need for upkeep of the unoccupied ’official residences’, why can’t he live in Sydney/Canberra, etcetera ad infinitum. There’s the tired, hoary old argument which Howard often puts forth, of the saving to the taxpayer in flight costs, shuttling the PM between Canberra and Sydney. That old saw doesn’t wash, especially when one considers the hidden costs incurred annually, which we, the people, rarely if ever hear about. I dare say that $18.4 million would pay for many more shuttles in the Prime Ministerial BBJ between Canberra and Sydney than Howard is ever likely to have experienced.

Which brings me to my personal stand point. If you aspire to be PM, then you live and work where the seat of government lies. That’s Canberra. It’s not Sydney and it’s not Melbourne. It’s never likely to be Brisbane, but what Kevin Rudd winds up doing with his own personal residence is his own business. There’s nothing wrong with Canberra. It’s a beautiful city. Sterile, but a beautiful city none the less and certainly not lacking in the necessaries when it comes to hosting dignitaries, presenting Australia as she really is, rather than as we’d like her to be.

The Prime Ministerial role is no different from any other job one might apply for interstate. If the boss – in this case the Australian people – requires you to relocate to where the work is, that’s what you do. Running government isn’t a work-from-home telecommute. It’s a hands on, tongues-to-bums exercise in diplomacy, legislation and plain olde hard work. The current incumbent tends to treat the job as a drawback to living off the public purse. For mine, if you want the job, your address becomes Corner Adelaide Avenue & National Circuit, Deakin, Canberra, ACT. 2600.

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