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Friday 18 Aug 2017 | 17:30 | SYDNEY

Diplomatic symbols: The Lodge

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COMMENTS

21 October 2011 08:32

In preparing Australia for the Asian century, how Australia presents itself to the world — especially to visiting national leaders and diplomats — will be crucial. Symbols and diplomatic procedures will have to be considered and challenged.

One change I'd like to see to this end is the development of a new Lodge for the Prime Minister, one fitting the stature of the office and which could be used as a diplomatic asset.

The Lodge was built in 1927 as a temporary accommodation, and has rarely been embraced by our Prime Ministers. Chifley and Howard refused to live there, and most PMs make it their home only for sitting weeks. Diplomatically, it offers little in the way of grandeur or projection of power.

If Australia wants to be a middle power in the Asian Century, we will need to show that we have confidence in the identity we are claiming, and we will need to use every angle and advantage we can in diplomatic negotiations and engagement. When international leaders come calling, we need to make the most of our (rare) home territory advantage. An impressive residence and workspace for the Prime Minister will help.

That said, there's something to the argument that a humble residence for the PM suits Australia's character and approach to international politics. If we are planning to slowly back out of regional power politics (ala New Zealand), then keeping the current Lodge is a good symbol of that low-key identity. The above link also has some interesting speculation on what kind of architecture would be appropriate for any new Lodge. As always, I'm keen to hear reader thoughts.

Photo, by RC Strangman, of the Prime Minister's Lodge, Canberra, in 1940. Courtesy of the National Library of Australia.

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