Malcolm Turnbull calls Abbott-era Lodge cost ‘staggering’

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 Tom McIlroy

Malcolm Turnbull has declared blow outs on renovations at The Lodge “staggering” and says new “adult oversight” will prevent the situation ever being repeated.

His first comments since the release of a critical audit report into the renovation nightmare at the Prime Minister’s official Canberra residence, Mr Turnbull told Channel 10 the $12 million project was completed before his time in the top job.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and wife Lucy at The Lodge.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and wife Lucy at The Lodge. Photo: AAP

The report, ordered by Mr Turnbull as the scale of the costs and delays became clear, blamed the Abbott government for more than 40 contract changes which saw the initial $3.2 million price tag reach a near $12 million bill to taxpayers.

The review was ordered amid reports senior government figures had repeatedly ordered changes to the contract and size of the works.

Former prime minister Tony Abbott with his chief of staff Peta Credlin.

Former prime minister Tony Abbott with his chief of staff Peta Credlin. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

“Not in my time,” Mr Turnbull said on Sunday.

“But the amount that was spent on the renovations on The Lodge, which was about 12 million bucks – staggering.

You could have built several, two new houses of that size.

“It won’t happen again. I’ve made sure we’ve got some adult oversight on any further works that are done on those residences.”

The Lodge after the renovations were completed.

The Lodge after the renovations were completed. Photo: Andrew Meares

Originally expected to see the ageing roof replaced, electrical rewiring and removal of asbestos, the project morphed into a much needed property-wide refurbishment for the 1927 home.

Started during Julia Gillard’s tenure as prime minister, the eventual three-year timeframe denied Mr Abbott the chance to live in the historic Deakin home.

The report released this month found nearly $4.5 million in contract blow outs, or 80 per cent of the cost increases identified by the review, were caused by changes ordered by the government.

They included delays in choosing floor tiles and carpets, improvements to the billiards room, new storage and walk in robes, necessary occupational health and safety upgrades and an $83,000 specialist luggage lift.

The report was released by the Department of Finance after a long running freedom of information appeal by Fairfax Media.

It coincided with Mr Turnbull’s announcement of a new official residences advisory panel to oversee future work at The Lodge and Sydney’s Kirribilli House.

Chaired by environmental and planning lawyer David O’Donnell, the panel is made up of architectural and heritage experts including daughter of former Liberal prime minister Malcolm Fraser, interior designer Angela Marshall.

Mr Turnbull and his wife Lucy contributed $130,000 of their own money to The Lodge project, including for restoration of historic furniture dating back to the 1930s.


Source  :  The Canberra Times

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