A bronze bust of Oscar Nemon’s “Churchill”, similar to the one removed from the PMO

A bust of Winston Churchill and a portrait of the Queen are among the artworks given the flick by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull upon taking office in September last year.

He might not be pushing for Australia to be made a republic this early in his prime ministership, but Turnbull was quick to remove any reminders of the monarchy from his office when he took over from Abbott in September last year. According to Senate documents, Abbott, a devout monarchist, had a 1954 portrait of Queen Elizabeth II on his wall. It was removed by the republican Turnbull in September, and returned to its home in the National Museum of Australia in October last year.

It was one of a total of 19 artworks that were removed in September last year, including a bust of Winston Churchill by Oscar Nemon, an oil painting by Churchill himself, and an ink drawing of Robert Menzies. Turnbull took down several pieces from the Parliament House collection, along with artworks on loan from the National Gallery of Australia, including two works by Sidney Nolan and one by Margaret Olley. Work by indigenous artists Lucy Yukenbarri, Jean Baptiste Apuatimi, Maria Butcher and Angeline Pwerle Ngala were also removed.

A total of 15 pieces of art from the Parliament House Art Collection were installed in the new Prime Minister’s suite in September last year, including several works by indigenous artists including Turkey Tolson Tjupurrula, Queenie McKenzie, Esme Timbery and Robyn Djunginy.

While Abbott chose to have artworks of his political heroes decorating the prime ministerial suite, the pieces installed for Turnbull do not pay homage to past politicians.

The response to Senate estimates questions on notice from the Department of Parliamentary Services reveals that after Turnbull took over from Abbott in September last year and overhauled the ministry, there were a total of 283 artworks in 44 suites that were relocated at a total cost to the department of $26,153.

As Crikey previously reported, the infamous $15,000 bookcase Attorney-General George Brandis had made for his office had to be moved to the office formerly held by Eric Abetz after the leadership change at a cost of $1200.

In response to another question, the department confirmed that it had spent $15,535 to replace an oven in the cabinet suite. The oven itself cost $13,490, with the other costs associated with its installation, and also the removal of the 24-year-old oven it was replacing. The department said that the old oven was unrepairable and was a risk for the chefs using the oven. The replacement is a Goldstein electric six-plate, 300 griddle, double-door, fan-forced convention oven.

There are strict rules about photographing or filming art inside Parliament House, with the official Twitter account of the House of Representatives taking a staffer to task on Twitter last week for tweeting a picture of a piece in the Parliamentary collection.

Peter Fray

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