Fifteen years after the Governors of New South Wales were expelled from their purpose built home, Government House, and 165 years after it was first occupied, Governor Marie Bashir will take up residence, according to an exclusive report by Andrew Clennell in The Daily Telegraph ( (“Governor Marie Bashir makes a grand return home to Government House” 7 October , 2011)
This is despite a last ditch campaign by the perpetrator of the expulsion of the Governors, former premier Mr Bob Carr, who recently gave an American history reading with a musical interlude at Government House.
Government House was the home for 27 governors from 1846 to 1996, and for the first five governors-general from 1901 to 1914.Over the last 15 years it has been impossible to appoint anybody not living in Sydney as governor who had to live in her own home in suburban Sydney.
This of course imposed difficulties on the governor who had to move regularly between her home, her city office and government house. In the meantime government house was used for not only public and viceregal functions, but also for activities which were some said were political in nature.
The return fulfils a commitment made at a public meeting called by ACM at Parliament House on Monday 7 March, 2011. There, the Hon. Marie Ficarra MP, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary to the next Premier Barry O’Farrell, indicated his support to the return of the Governor. The meeting had been addressed by to leading and long-term campaigners, the Rev Fred Nile MLC and the noted broadcaster Mr Alan Jones.
In 1996 Mr Carr said the expulsion was to open Government House the public, save money and make the position of Governor part-time and bring the office closer to the people.
But the number of visitors did not increase, it was more expensive, and the proposal concerning the Governor had to be abandoned on constitutional grounds.
When he resigned the premiership he revealed that the expulsion of the governors was about their reserve powers. Premier Barry O'Farrell told Mr. Clenell that "a lot of people believe the governor should live at Government House, that's what it was built for."
ACM called a peaceful protest in 1996 which brought out over 20,000 protesters. 60,000 signed a petition. Far from being popular as Mr. Carr now claims, it was extremely unpopular. Former Prime Minister Paul Keating said it was the reason why he lost the 1996 election. ACM has continued that campaign in the intervening period.
…long term return to the House…
Mr O'Farrell said he has been speaking for months to Ms Bashir about her returning to the residence and she and her husband, Sir Nicholas Shehadie, are set to move into the grounds before Christmas, living in an adjoining chalet before a proper refurbishment can be done to make government House a permanent residence.
The Premier told Mr Clenell that the public will be allowed access to Government House to quell fears that a return of the Governor's office to the historic residence could stop tens of thousands of people from visiting the living monument.
"Government House is one of the most historic buildings in NSW and it should remain open to the public," Mr O'Farrell said.
"The fact that 10,000 people visit Government House for functions each year shows that people want to retain access to this iconic building. Under this arrangement, the public will still have access to the building and grounds but it will also return to being the official residence of the governor."
Mr. O'Farrell said the Governor's move into the chalet would carry "minimal cost". He said minor works would be done to provide "appropriate access and safety for Her Excellency and Sir Nicholas. It is hoped that they will be able to move into Government House by Christmas," he said.
Mr O'Farrell said the government was also seeking quotes to refurbish a section of the dwelling known as the Vernon Wing, as a long-term solution to accommodate future governors. The cost could be "largely offset" by relocating support staff from the city office established by Mr Carr to Government House.
"At some stage a rural or regional governor will be appointed and we will need to provide accommodation at Government House so it makes sense to provide appropriate living areas," he said.