Australian PM 'homeless' as residence repaired

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Oct 12 2011 10:54 AM | Updated as of Oct 12 2011 06:54 PM

SYDNEY, Australia - Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard is being forced out of her official Canberra residence -- not because of her plunging popularity but so the ageing building can undergo urgent repairs.

Gillard and her partner Tim Mathieson will move out next year as the 84-year-old home, known as The Lodge, undergoes a major renovation to fix a leaking roof and remove dangerous electrical wiring and asbestos.

"If The Lodge were a patient it would be in hospital," Special Minister of State Gary Gray said Tuesday.

"There is a lot of work to be done."

The repairs, expected to cost millions, will take about 18 months.

Gray said an appropriate Canberra home would be found for Gillard, who is flailing in opinion polls and who only has a slim parliamentary majority, while the 40-room Georgian revival-style mansion is refitted.

Gillard and Mathieson have a modest home in the western suburbs of Melbourne and there is also a prime ministerial residence on Sydney harbour, but it is not yet known where they will stay in Canberra.

The Lodge was initially built in 1927 as a temporary residence and a block of land has long been set aside for a new official home, but the issue has never gone any further.