“Five years after the Howard Government spent $245,000 of taxpayers’ money to help build a luxurious state coach for the Queen, the Senate has been told no government official knows where it is,” reports the Herald Sun today.
Under questioning from Labor Senator John Faulkner, public servants said they didn’t know where the coach was, had never inspected it and there was never any contract. The Senate was told around $245,000 was paid after our former PM approved the spend to support “Australian craftsmanship” and then gift the results to her Royal Highness — the perfect 80th birthday present.
The case of the missing gilt coach, dubbed Britannia, is an issue close to our hearts: Crikey has been campaigning hard on the issue since 2008, prompted initially by this red hot tip:
The Golden Carriage of North Head. NewsRadio this morning was playing some proceedings from Senate committee proceedings yesterday when questions were asked about the expensive golden carriage being produced as a gift from the Prime Minister to the Queen, intended as an anniversary gift two years ago but behind schedule. Nobody knows where it is or how it’s progressing. There is something very golden, and very carriage shaped, lying in the middle of a private business area at the North Head Sanctuary in Sydney. This is the Google Maps link to the the area and the below image indicates the area where the carriage was seen. Have any Crikey readers spotted the Golden Carriage of North Head?
Two years on, and master coach builder and monarchist Jim Frecklington remains tight lipped:
Speaking from his Sydney home yesterday, he denied the coach was missing but refused to say where it was. He said it had played a role in last month’s royal wedding but did not elaborate.
“It’s ready to go, that’s all I can say,” Mr Frecklington said.
Given that two billion people tuned into the recent royal nuptials, surely some keen observer spotted the Cinderella style mode of transport? It’s black and gold and bedazzled. It weighs 2.75-tonnes. And its jewel encrusted highlights are accented with pieces of historic timber from Henry VIII’s flagship the Mary Rose, the Tower of London and St Paul’s Cathedral.
Was it bestowed the honour of cradling the flower children from A to B or — dare we speculate — touched by the now-blessed bottom of one Pippa Middleton between Westminster Abbey and the palace?
Or perhaps it never left our shores… Manly subscribers, consider yourselves on high alert…because this letter was last penned back in 2008 to The Manly Daily, by, um, the coach itself:
We want answers Frecklington.