In 1995, plans were announced in Canberra for the building of a Presidential Palace to be occupied when Australia became a republic.
The National Capital Planning Authority announced that the Prime Minister's Department “had set aside a site” for the building of the Palace (Sunday Telegraph, 26 March 1995).
Declaring himself " a long term republican, the Chairman of the National Capital Planning Authority, Professor Evan Walker, said that the president of the Australian republic should have a US style official residence in a new "public precinct".
The National Capital Planning Authority had previously been in the news that year for placing two nude sculptures of the Sovereign and her consort on a park bench on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin.
This was done one night during Holy Week. The sculptor said his work “reflected the crumbling of the monarchy… I love it.” (Sydney Morning Herald, 14 April 1995)
The statues were received with shock and indignation: a vote line established by the then republican
newspaper, The Herald Sun resulted in 1,852 callers with 94% indicating they were offended. (Herald Sun, 15 April 1995)
A retired New South Wales police sergeant Cary Mc Quillian, wearing his Vietnam war medals, drove from Sydney to clothe the statues, warning that they would be removed over his dead body.
Bruce Ruxton, the president of the Victorian RSL, declared that “the sculpture was sick and its creator should be tied to concrete and thrown into Lake Burley Griffin” ( Herald Sun 15 April 1995).
…what Presidential Palace are you talking about ?…
The politicians reacted as republicans do when they realise they have proposed something unacceptable. The republican tactic is to either deny it, or to say it's no longer on the agenda.
So the government denied that any thought of a Presidential Palace was the last thing on its mind. As with their plans to shred the Flag, the republicans tried to sweep this under the table, hoping we would forget.
With flag change, this will no doubt be back on the public agenda if ever Australians were to agree with whatever form of politicians’ republic is inserted – at the last moment – into the next referendum bill.
If there is one.