Friday, July 27, 2012

The Lodge at Altona

"The transfer of the Government's headquarters from Canberra to Altona follows a long tradition of power finding its way to unlikely locales......." (Ref 1). Indeed, our Prime Minister will be spending more time at her Altona home over the next few months (Ref 2). This is due to major repairs and renovations being carried out on the Lodge at Canberra.

The Special Minister of State, Gary Gray, said building condition audits of the Lodge had revealed the roof was failing and had to be replaced urgently. "The roof repairs are essential because the slate has deteriorated to such a point that it is dangerous, with badly broken or cracked tiles and no longer safely weatherproofs the building." (Ref 3). The original 1920s plumbing is leaking, the cloth-wrapped electrical wiring is a fire hazard, there is asbestos that needs to be removed and upgrading of the fire protection and security systems are required (Ref 4).

It appears that the Lodge was only intended as a temporary residence and land has long been set aside for a better residence on the shores of Lake Burley-Griffin. But no prime minister has been brave enough to commission the building of the new permanent residence. Hence, despite ongoing maintenance, the 85-year old heritage-listed Lodge has fallen into disrepair and needs to be virtually rebuilt (Ref 5).

There is an interesting report that the Lodge is infested by possums so bold and immovable that their nocturnal activities have been known to interrupt official functions and endanger the priceless artworks studding the walls. PM Gillard loves telling this story. "We had a celebrated incident where we had a visiting foreign leader so you put dinner on for them," she says. "There was much shooing of people out of the dining room in a way that looked - it wasn't rudely done. But it was because someone had spotted that wee was making its way down the wall to one of the very precious paintings from the National Gallery." When asked by the reporters if she is moving in with Wayne Swan or staying at Kirribilli while the Lodge is being renovated, she replied: "Or Altona. We can camp out at Altona."

Last Saturday, several vehicles were parked in our street and there were diggings in her front gardens. I was asking my wife if the PM is re-landscaping her gardens. A federal police car came the following day so I thought that the PM is perhaps at home, holding her first live Google+ hangout and those vehicles here the previous day could be to set up the equipment for this social media experiment. When the vehicles continue to appear day after day, I realize that my guesses are wrong and the works are more than just landscaping. The front of the house is barricaded with black garbage bags so though I pass by the house everyday, I do not know what have been done behind this "screen" though I could have peeped inside.

My wife told me she saw a media car so a journalist must be doing some news coverage. Indeed, I later read from news sources that security work is being done on her Altona home although a spokesman for the Prime Minister said the extra security is not related to the Lodge renovation timetable (Ref 6, 7).

When my wife walked past the PM's house on her way home today, she saw a hip or waist-level fence and gate being erected. Actually, we were also looking to build a gate to increase security. Somebody had poked a hole through our windows recently and the 61-year old female owner of a second-hand book store at Harrington Square was in intensive-care at Alfred Hospital after being bashed by a thief for theft of no more than $200 (Ref 8, 9). A friend who lives in nearby Phair Court told us a young lady was being intimidated for money at the Westona train station not long ago. With the intention of building a gate in mind, my wife stopped to talk to the contractor. She asked if he does a gate for others. He replied "no" as this is not an ordinary gate. I suppose there are special security features which are not suitable for our purpose.


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