Tony Wright -Jul 15, 2014
It seems a pity Clive Palmer won't talk to Tony Abbott, for the prime minister's dining and sitting rooms at Parliament House are ready and waiting, having been given a nice $51,500 sprucing up in recent months.
New curtains and cushions have been installed for comfort and privacy at the cost of almost $21,000.
The work, it seems, was urgent.
The PM's Canberra residence, the Lodge, was going through its own renovations and couldn't be used for dining. Or even sitting.
The work at the Lodge has, reportedly, cost a cool $4.45 million - up $1.26 million on the original estimate after former prime minister Julia Gillard moved out.
It is not clear how much dining Mr Abbott will do at the handsomely refurbished Lodge, however. He and his family have chosen to live at Kirribilli House, in Sydney - another prime ministerial pad with a substantial dining room.
Back at Parliament House, however, the PM's dining room had been cruelly sidelined, reduced to a storage space, and with the Lodge torn apart, Mr Abbott was spending his Canberra evenings in a room at the local police academy, which wasn't entirely suited to entertaining.
The Department of Parliamentary Services decided amenities should be improved soon after Mr Abbott became prime minister late last year.
The Labor Party's sleuth on such matters, Senator John Faulkner, sought the cost of the improvements during Estimates hearings in May. The department released its response late last week, and had a sorry tale to tell.
''The dining room had rarely been used as an occasional dining venue, as originally intended,'' the department lamented in its response.
''It had suffered significant wear and tear due to its use as a meeting room, work and storage area over a number of years, and had not been refurbished since Parliament House opened in 1988.''
''The dining room, in particular, was required urgently due to the unavailability of the Lodge.''
Between December 2013 and May this year, $51,524.84 was spent putting things to rights.
There's a new three-seater lounge in the sitting room, costing about $9000 and the 16 chairs in the dining room have been reupholstered. The chairs cost only $4000, because existing fabric was used.
Accommodation in the lounge and sitting rooms is a bit grander - new Arabian leather was used to upholster a new three-seater lounge and two armchairs and to reupholster a three-seater. And four tub chairs have been given new leather treatment.
All of which, you might imagine, would have accommodated the gourmand Clive Palmer quite nicely should he have wished to have a chat. Alas, Mr Palmer declared only a couple of weeks ago that he didn't talk to Mr Abbott.
The PM and his Cabinet colleagues can always retire in privacy - and further new comfort - to ponder such matters.
The Cabinet room's four lounges have been reupholstered in orange leather. Total cost: $31,967.11.