$3000 a week for house PM doesn’t use
Taxpayers are forking out $3000 a week in rent for a luxury Canberra house that Prime Minister Tony Abbott has chosen not to use.
The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) leased the property as a temporary replacement for The Lodge, which is undergoing a major refurbishment.
Senior DPMC official Elizabeth Kelly said the department signed a 12-month lease on August 31, a week before the September 7 federal election.
It signed even though neither Mr Abbott nor then Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd had been able to inspect the property due to their election campaign commitments.
Ms Kelly said the department had wanted to find accommodation “comparable” to The Lodge.
But after the election, Mr Abbott opted instead to stay in a modest flat at the Australian Federal Police training college in Barton.
Liberal senator Cory Bernardi asked about the property during a Senate estimates hearing on Monday.
“So $3000 a week for a property that how many people are living in now?” he asked.
“The property is vacant, senator,” Ms Kelly said.
Ms Kelly said the department was notified shortly after the election that Mr Abbott was not going to use it.
Since then, the department has been negotiating with the property’s owner to get out of the lease, but has not yet succeeded.
“We’re still in those negotiations,” Ms Kelly said.
It’s understood the property has already cost taxpayers more than $30,000.
The full 12-month lease would cost taxpayers about $156,000.
Senator Bernardi said the department could have found a cheaper property, or shouldn’t have signed the lease before the outcome of the election was known.
“I’m not sure the taxpayers will enjoy the fact that they’ve got $156,000 worth of lease payments to pay for an empty building,” he said.
Officials wouldn’t say where the leased property was.