Australia’s Prime Minister Julia Gillard will move out of her official Canberra residence, in part due to some possums in her home’s roof. It has been known for some time that Gillard and partner Tim Mathieson will have to move out of The Lodge, which is more than 80-years-old, as it undergoes vital repairs, including the removal of dangerous cloth wiring and asbestos.
But Gillard revealed yesterday that the urgency of the renovations came home to her when an unnamed foreign official had to be rushed out of one room after the possums’ lack of toilet training became obvious.
“We had a celebrated incident where we had a visiting foreign leader, so you put dinner on for them,” Gillard said. “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 one of them were making its way down the wall to one of the very precious paintings from the National Gallery.”
Government officials last year announced that the 40-room Georgian revival-style mansion known as The Lodge would undergo a major renovation to fix the leaking roof, redo the electrical wiring and remove asbestos.
Gillard said she was unconcerned about her upcoming move, and she would consider living in her Sydney harbourside residence, Kirribilli, when parliament was not sitting.
But where she will stay in Canberra once renovations begin towards the end of the year is not known. “The dudes who do things like that, they think about security issues, they have a tribe working on it,” the prime minister said.
She also revealed that when not preoccupied with leading the nation, the Gillard spends her time at the Lodge knitting woollen cardigans for babies.
“I’m on a smock coat — for a two-year-old — with quite a complex pattern at the top which requires you to count stitches in eight-stitch lots,” she explained.
“If you’re just knitting a plain bit of the pattern, I can just watch the TV; if I’m at a stage where I have to count stitches, I’ll look up 15 minutes later and go, ‘I don’t even know who these people are any more. Who’s killed who in this episode’?”
The PM has knitted pieces for Finance Minister Penny Wong’s baby daughter, Alexandra, and for her former chief of staff Amanda Lampe’s twins; she shops online for yarn at The Wool Shack website.
The Lodge was built in 1927 as a temporary residence but plans to build a permanent prime ministerial home have never progressed.