A residence worthy of our PM

big dunnyReporter Adam Gartrell is a superbly talented journalist of the modern school. He can take notes on bended knee while simultaneously tugging a forelock and extruding copy of the sort guaranteed to bring the smile of a monarch’s pleasure to the lips of our latest PM. This makes for a marked contrast with his coverage of the ousted PM, whom Gartrell once advised Fairfax readers as being

“negative and extreme. Simplistic and misleading, perhaps even a little delusional. Full of fear and obsessed with external threats.”

But Malcolm Turnbull? Well Mrs Turnbull’s guided tour of The Lodge and the taxpayer-owned art works she has borrowed for its newly renovated walls inspire him to thoughts of — how could they not? — Jack and Jackie Kennedy.

As Lucy Turnbull guides a small media gaggle through The Lodge to see the personal touch she’s put on the prime minister’s official residence, one is inevitably reminded of Kennedy’s famous White House tour.


Let us hope for the sake of the Turnbull marriage there are no further evocations of Camelot, as corner-of-the-eye glimpses of actresses and mobsters’ sweethearts nipping in and out The Lodge’s back door might distract her from the chore of selecting a fresh Drysdale or three. As she notes, “Not many houses are lucky enough to have two Drysdales in the one room.”

Ah, but Gartrell isn’t satisfied. He believes the PM of the day deserves better than a home enhanced by a mere $9 million worth of recent renovations, plus all that art work no longer available to undistinguished citizens visiting Australia’s public museums and galleries. In a companion article, he maintains that what Australia’s leader really and truly deserves is an entirely new and utterly magnificent residence

…purpose-built for the future; a modern and memorable building that could showcase Australia’s design genius, pay tribute to our Indigenous heritage and reflect our multicultural makeup.

A mere $50 million, Gartrell estimates, should be adequate to the task of fulfilling what he above sketches as the architect’s brief.

Indigenous heritage? Well that will be easy enough: a multi-storey, dot-decorated gunyah will do the trick. But the “multicultural makeup” bit, that presents a problem. Should there be a separate entrance for women, or might they be directed to their own, gender-restricted picture-viewing galleries? Where to place the wedding chapel for first-cousin marriages?

Then again, in this era of runaway deficits there is need for judicious economies. These might be achieved, perhaps, by borrowing plans from the NSW town of Dunedoo for the giant long-drop dunny envisioned above. The pong pipe at the rear, slightly re-modelled, might  do double duty as a minaret.

Fortunately, these tough decisions remain for the moment academic, as Gartrell notes it would be a political impossibility for the current PM to authorise construction of a home of such grandeur as to match his own. People might think he has numbers on himself!

So there, in their current digs, the Turnbulls must for the moment remain, coping bravely with but a bare minimum of Drysdales and, or so one gathers, extensive stretches of slobber-sodden carpet courtesy of visiting reporters.

Gartrell’s plea for a prime ministerial Versailles on the shores of Burley Griffin can be read via the link below.

— roger franklin

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