Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Julia Lodge

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Julia Gillard's Altona house is up for auction this coming Saturday 14/12/2013 at 2 p.m. I believe many people will be very curious to know how much it will fetch and who will be the successful bidder.

According to a newspapers article, an inspector described the house as having huge potential as a pile of rubble. "Put up a bunch of units? You'd have to develop, to make it worthwhile," she says. I am thinking an astute investor would not have paid a premium to pull down this house. Subdivision and redevelopment could be achieved more cheaply with a similar property elsewhere in Altona.

If you are going to pay much more for this house because the first female Australian PM has resided in it during her reign, you may as well capitalize on its "celebrity status". Rather than diminishing or erasing its historical association through redevelopment, the investor should instead embrace, enhance and prolong its "celebrity allure".  I have suggested in a previous post that the successful bidder may consider turning this investment into a holiday rental house featuring a Prime Ministerial suite and experience, with a rich story to tell. I think Julia Lodge will be a good, appropriate name reflecting its history as this is her abode and this humble house has also operated as "The Lodge" out of Canberra over a significant duration of time.

Now I will let my imaginations run wild and explore with the readers how this holiday house could look like and what features it could have in order to resurrect the one and only Prime Ministerial experience in Australia. It may come as a surprise to you that with information publicly accessible from the internet, you can actually stock the house full of memorabilia associated with Ms Gillard.  


Ms Gillard said that a favourite location in her Altona house is the rear family room where she and her partner Tim Mathieson love relaxing near the fireplace (Ref 1). Another article describes her preference of sitting closest to the fireplace in Kirribilli House, Sydney and curling up on the Lodge sofa in Canberra with Tim Mathieson, switching on Midsomer Murders and pullling out the knitting needles to work on a baby's cardigan.

Furniture could include:
  • A replica of the Lodge sofa could be put in one of the two lounges in her Altona house.
  • An armchair for knitting as pictured in the photo shoot featured in the July 2003 issue of The Australian Women Weekly magazine.

    Julia Gillard knitting royal kangaroo
    Julia Gillard posing in an armchair knitting
    a toy kangaroo for the royal baby

Many holiday houses stock DVDs, CDs and books in the lounge to provide entertainment for their guests.

The booklist could include:

The DVDs could include:
  • A compilation of TV programs Ms Gillard had "starred" in. I am surprised that there is an entry for Julia Gillard in IMDb (Internet Movie Database), which is usually reserved for celebrities in the show business. You can see the list of TV programs she had appeared in from her filmography. The manner this entry is written, particularly the section on her biography, is actually quite demeaning. I could recall watching her, who was then the Deputy PM, appearing on Channel Ten's "I'm not smarter than a 5th grader" in which she won the $100,000 prize (Ref 9). The IMDb author is apparently not exhaustive enough as this reality TV episode is not included in her filmography.
  • At Home With Julia - a 4-part TV series shown on ABC, and created and played by Amanda Bishop. Ms Gillard was apparently not amused by this satirical sitcom. "I think aspects of that first episode were funny but I've got more to do than sit around watching ABC TV,'' she said (Ref 10).
  • TV drama based on The Stalking of Julia Gillard, played by Rachel Griffiths, unlikely to air until at least 2015 (Ref 11).
  • Her significant speeches such as the world-famous Misogynist Speech and the Concession Speech after losing to Kevin Rudd in a leadership spill on 26/6/2013.

    The Concession Speech

  • Interviews with Julia Gillard, including the Conversation with Anne Summers at the Sydney Opera House and Melbourne Town Hall. You can order the DVD here.

  • Political commentaries and news snippets of Julia Gillard, including her meetings with prominent world leaders such as Barrack Obama and Hillary Clinton. 
  • Videos of Julia Gillard's "Cinderella Moments".
  • Midsomer Murders - a detective drama watched by Julia Gillard (Ref 12).
  • Game of Thrones - she has named watching this fantasy drama TV series as one of her favourite pastimes (Ref 13).
  • Movies of Eric Bana (including Black Hawk Down) and Cate Blanchett - her favourite film stars (Ref 14).
  • Wales in Australia - a BBC documentary about the impact of the Welsh on the shaping of Australia, in which the host Huw Edwards conducted an interview with Julia Gillard (Ref 15). 
  • Videos on yoga, boxing and bosu ball exercises that she do (Ref 16).
  • Recordings of footy games involving Western Bulldogs - she is an ardent supporter of this AFL club (Ref 17).

CDs could include her favourite music albums (Ref 18):
  • Cold Chisel - Twentieth Century
  • Bruce Springsteen - Born to Run
  • Midnight Oil - Blue Sky Mining
  • Crowded House - Woodface
  • Things Of Stone And Wood - The Yearning

Julia Gillard has on many occasions named knitting as her favourite pastime and also as a means to unwind and switch off (Ref 19, 20, 21, 22, ). When not preoccupied with leading the nation, she would spend her time at the Lodge knitting woollen cardigans for babies. To reflect this hobby, we could have in the lounge:
  • Knitting materials, guide and pattern books.
  • A lime-green knitting handbag with silver lining and marked with an official Air Force flight tag "CABIN: Prime Minister" that she used to carry (Ref 23, 24).
  • A replica of the Royal Baby Kangaroo that she had knitted as a gift for Prince George before she was disposed as the PM and whose fate we do not know - did she still send this gift to its intended recipient? (Ref 25).

    JG Royal Kangaroo
    The Royal Baby Kangaroo with Julia Gillard's dog Reuben

  • A replica of the little jacket she knitted for the then Finance Minister Penny Wong's baby daughter, Alexandra, and of a maroon smock-coat for one of her former chief of staff Amanda Lampe's twin daughters (Ref 26).
  • A replica of the scarf knitted by her that raised $4050 at a charity auction at the Federal Press Gallery's Midwinter Ball for helping someone beats the winter chill (Ref 27).
  • A replica of A Tale of Two Jules painted by artist Tony Sowersby, an entrant in the Bald Archy Prize, in 2011 depicting Julia Gillard knitting in a scene with WikiLeaks crusader Julian Assange and former Alaska governator Sarah Palin. (Ref 28).

    A Tale of Two Jules
    A Tale of Two Jules by Tony Sowersby

Other stuff that could be put in the lounges may include:
  • A yoga mat and a bosu ball that she does exercises with (Ref 29). 
  • There are quite a number of political board and card games, particularly those based on US politics (Ref 29a, 29b). In view of the political drama over the past six years, it is surprising that there is yet an entrepreneur attempt to invent a game themed after Australian politics, in which the players can take on the roles of local politicians such as Julia Gillard, Kevin Rudd, Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull, Bill Shorten, Julie Bishop, etc.
  • A stuffed toy dog replica of Reuben - a cavoodle given as a 50th birthday present from Ms Gillard's partner, Tim Mathieson (Ref 30). They often take Reuben for a morning walk around Cherry Lake in Altona (Ref 31). Ms Gillard has proclaimed herself to be a "dog person" (Ref 32).

    Julia Gillard with Reuben at her Altona House 
    Julia Gillard with Reuben at her Altona house
    Photo by Joe Armao

  • There is an interesting cartoon on Reuben on Crikey's website that would look good on the wall.

    Cavoodle Reuben

  • Wall paintings may include Aboriginal Art as in Kirribili House, the PM's Sydney residence (Ref 33) or landmark photos of meeting with foreign leaders.

    Julia Gillard and Barrack Obama trying Aussie Rules Game
    Julia Gillard giving Barack Obama a lesson on Aussie Rules Game in his Oval Office

  • The Sherrin football that Julia Gillard gave as a present to US President Barack Obama (Ref 34). Ms Gillard had also kept a Sherrin football celebrating 150 years of AFL in her PM office at the Parliament House (Ref 34a). Perhaps Ms Gillard had parted with her treasured football, which she gifted to Mr. Obama.

Kitchen/Dining Room

This is another favourite spot in the house for Ms Gillard. How can it be presented for the telling of vivid stories?
  • First, the dining table should have a replica of that infamous empty fruit bowl. Read my earlier post.

    Julia Gillard Fruit Bowl
    2005 Photo by Ken Irwin for Fairfax Media

  • Ms Gillard loves telling this story: "We had a celebrated incident where we had a visiting foreign leader so you put dinner on for them. There was much shooing of people out of the dining room because someone spotted possum wee making its way down the wall to one of the very precious paintings from the National Gallery." (Ref 35). We could reproduce the scene here by hanging replicas of the National Gallery paintings on the wall, a figurine of a possum, faked urinal trails down the wall as well as a written account of the story framed on the wall.

  • One of the most demeaning and offensive things that was done to Ms Gillard is the creation of a supposedly "mock" menu by Joe Richards, owner of Brisbane-based Richards and Richards Restaurant at a $1000 per head fundraising dinner for Mal Brough, the LNP candidate for the federal seat of Fisher. This menu featured a dish called "Julia Gillard Kentucky Fried Quail" which is described as "Small Breasts, Huge Thighs & A Big Red Box" (Ref 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42). This menu can be made into a table placemat. The purpose is not to ridicule Ms Gillard but to remind the guests how much sexism she has suffered.

    Julia Gillard Menu

  • There could be a recipe book on Ms Gillard's favourite dishes. She had said she loves roast lamb with lots of roast potatoes, carrots, peas, gravy and mint sauce (Ref 43).

  • There is a sex scene in the TV satire "At Home with Julia" depicting Julia Gillard and Tim Mathieson on the office floor draped in an Australian flag. This has provoked outrage in many viewers who feel this is disrespectful, tantamount to desecrating the Australian flag as government protocol said the flag should not fall or lie on the ground or be used as a cover (Ref 44, 45). However, I have seen many people wearing clothes (shirts, boardshorts, etc). with prints of Australian flags. Hence, I think it is alright to imprint the Union Jack motifs on bedsheets, blankets and pillow cases - firstly these aren't flags and secondly they are placed on beds, not on the floor.

    Julia Gillard Flag Sex Scene

  • The master bedroom is ensuite with a walk-in wardrobe. In addition to its usual function of keeping clothes and shoes, it can provide additional "accessories" to enact the "Julia Gillard presence".
  • What came to my mind first is a replica of her size 36 Midas pump blue suede shoe that was seized by the protesters from the Aboriginal Tent Embassy when she and Tony Abbott were presenting the inaugural National Emergency Medals on 26/1/2012. Read this post for further details of the story.

    Julia Gillard Blue Suede Shoe

  • Replica of the jersey presented by Western Bulldogs to her.

    Julia Gillard Western Bulldog Jersey

  • Jokes were being made about Ms Gillard's hair colour. She had been rudely labelled as a redhead and a ranga and political caricatures always try to inflate or emphasize this genetic trait of her - something that she is born with (Ref 46, 47). She had in fact declared that she is proud with her hair colour in a Q & A programme on ABC TV.

    A red wig can be provided in the wardrobe for anyone to put on, to see whether they will in fact look better with a different hair colour.

  • Soon after Ms Gillard became PM, she was criticized for her poor fashion sense of wearing heavy, brocaded coats and oversized cuffs and collars. The image consultant Imogen Lamport said the jacket she had worn resembled a cheap motel bedspread (Ref 48, 49). She suggested the PM be given a clothing allowance to polish up her appearance. The feminist Germaine Greer made this comment: "What I want her to do is get rid of those bloody jackets! They don't fit. Every time she turns around, you've got that strange horizontal crease which means they're cut too narrow in the hips. You've got a big arse, Julia, just get on with it." (Ref 50, 51). The then Opposition Leader Tony Abbott agreed with this assessment. He said: "I know, I know, I know. Germaine Greer was right on this subject." (Ref 51a). After seeing a photo of Ms Gillard visiting tsunami-ravaged Japan, the prominent Australian horse trainer and businesswoman Gai Waterhouse remarked: "She desperately needs a make-over. It wasn't the carnage behind that gave me the horrors, but the woman standing in front of it." (Ref 52). Apparently Ms Gillard has finally found her fashion feet for she is no longer criticized in this aspect (Ref 53, 54).

    Expert tips for JG wardrobe
    Expert tips provided by image consultant Imogen Lamport

  • Many tourist spots provide period, ethnic or stage costumes for people to don and take photos as mementos. Similarly, stocking the wardrobe with some copies of Ms Gillard's clothes before and after her makeover, such as the "technicolor screamcoat" (Ref 55) shown in the photo above, may turn out to be a tourist drawcard.  

Julia Gillard Letter Box

Unlike other houses in the same street, 9 Medford Street Altona does not have a letter box. However, the new owner can install a special letter box. Anyone who wishes to send letters to Julia Gillard can mail to this address, just like children from all over the world can send Christmas cards to Santa Claus via a particular post box in Finland. I do not think Julia Gillard will be interested in receiving and reading these letters. Instead, these letters could be collected, opened and put into a nicely-decorated "Mystery Box" in the house where they can be read by the guests.


I know that Ms Gillard is at home whenever I see a red AFP (Australian Federal Police) car parked opposite her house. This is a defining characteristic of this quiet street in Altona. I would miss its presence. There could a miniaturized replica of the AFP car in the front garden which can doubled up as part of a play space for kids.

A clay or timber statue of Reuben can be used to adorn the timber decked area in the rear garden.


Ms Gillard had mentioned on many occasions that she enjoys living in Altona. Indeed, Altona is a hidden gem with many attractions and significant natural parklands that are being neglected by Melbourne tourism promoters. I have suggested itineraries of touring Altona and you can find a comprehensive coverage of Altona's various attractions here.

JG at Altona Pier
Julia Gillard and Tim Mathieson walking on the Altona Pier

One idea is to create a Julia Gillard Itinerary, covering locations in Altona that she had visited and which guests could retrace the paths she had taken. These would include Cherry Lake where she and her partner Tim often bring their dog Reuben for a walk, Altona Beach, Altona Pier and restaurants she had patronized such as Melissa Cakes in Pier Street and Waffee at Harrington Square.

JG at Melissa Cakes
Julia Gillard and Tim Mathieson at Melissa Cakes in Pier Street

In her concession speech, Ms Gillard said: "It doesn't explain everything, it doesn't explain nothing, it explains some things. And it is for the nation to think in a sophisticated way about those shades of grey. What I am absolutely confident of is it will be easier for the next woman and the woman after that and the woman after that. And I'm proud of that." (Ref 56)

The holiday house operator can promote the stay as an educational experience - the chance of better understanding what Ms Gillard had gone through and of grasping the essence of the philosophy behind those shades of grey ......

PS. Maybe one day, the story of Julia Gillard will become a local legend, passed from one generation to the next and there will be this local saying: "If you have not been to Medford Street, you have not been to Altona". While in Altona, try the Medford Street Burger from Stella Grill Restaurant located at 56 Pier Street. This is a vegetarian burger containing vegi patti, roasted bell pepper, baby spinach, Spanish onion, fetta cheese and dijonnaise (menu link).

Thursday, November 14, 2013

9 Medford Street, Altona

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It is not a mystery that many people know that former PM Julia Gillard lives at 9 Medford Street, Altona. If you do a Google Search, you can easily obtain this information online. Photographs of her modest house were splashed across several newspapers numerous times. Thanks to her, the postcode 3018 is put on the national map - Altona has turned from a relatively unknown working-class suburb to a household name.

Never in the history of Australia, have the residences of Prime Ministers become the focus of media attention and a source of public fascination. For example, I do not know the addresses of former PMs John Howard, Kevin Rudd and current PM Tony Abbott. I do know of their electorates from Federal Election reporting but otherwise, I am completely unaware of the particular suburbs their homes are located in. Either the other PMs have done a very good job of keeping their personal lives private or the media have no interest in the other PMs.

I feel that this exceptional phenomenon is worth further investigation and analysis. I have come up with some hypotheses to explain this phenomenon. One particular photo, shown below, may have given a clue.

Julia Gillard at her Altona home with the fruit bowl
2005 Photo by Ken Irwin for Fairfax Media

In January 2005, Julia Gillard, then a Labor MP, was photographed in her ordinarily-looking Altona kitchen with an empty fruit bowl. Soon after she was derisively called "deliberately barren" by the Liberal Senator Bill Heffernan (Ref 1). The empty fruit bowl had translated in the public consciousness as symbolic of a career-minded woman who has chosen to remain unmarried and childless in order to pursue her political ambitions (Ref 2). In fact, this empty fruit bowl has attained cult status in that this seemingly-insignificant observation was repetitively mentioned in later news articles and even made news headlines such as:
I think sexism has played a part in explaining the treatment and attention she had received (e.g. comments on her clothes and even physical anatomy) compared to other Prime Ministers. Here is an interesting article on "Things Girls Will Learn from Julia Gillard’s Prime Ministership". Quoting from this article:
The first suspicious evidence on this front was the photograph of Julia Gillard seated in the kitchen of her Altona home in 2005. The benches were clean and tidy, with only a few appliances visible, and the bowl on the kitchen table was empty. It did not matter that she’d just returned from overseas, having not yet even unpacked her suitcase, and that there was a potential challenge to then Labor leader Kim Beazley in the works. Gillard was clearly not preoccupied with her home and with ensuring partner Tim Mathieson ingested enough fibre because THE FRUIT BOWL WAS EMPTY! How could we trust a woman to lead the country if she couldn’t even ensure that some Pink Ladies and bananas were on hand at home?

The emptiness of Gillard’s fruit bowl was a sign of a greater emptiness in Gillard’s life. Senator Bill Heffernan infamously described her as “deliberately barren” because of her choice not to have children. His idea being that those who fail to reproduce have “no idea what life’s about” (Bulletin May 2007). And Heffernan cannot be seen as a lone dinosaur with an outdated view, as this criticism was repeated frequently. Senator George Brandis described Gillard as “very much a one-dimensional person” when commenting on her choice not be have children and her perceived inability to understand parents’ concerns (ABC Radio, Jan. 2010).
The second possible reason is that her house is indeed a very humble house, without even a front fence and a letter box. This news article reported that according to one visitor to the house, her security measures up to then involved her locking the front door, and maybe the back one. The current fence was erected much later, on advice of the Federal Police, to accord her better protection during her reign as a Prime Minister. I believe no other Prime Ministers have lived in a humbler house when they were in power.

The location of a PM in Altona is intriguing to some people.  Even up to this day, Altona has been despised by some people (particularly those who have not visited the suburb) as an industrial working-class backwater, not befitting the status of a Prime Minister.

The simplicity of her accommodation and its ease of access has the ingredient of piquing the curiosity of visitors. Ms Gillard said she had been surprised to discover her Altona house had become a destination on tourist walking tours. "I did come home the other day to find about 20 people outside taking photos of our weed-infested front yard so I’m not exactly sure what mementoes they’re making." (Ref 3). I must confess I am guilty of bringing overseas visitors who would eagerly pose for photos in front of her house. The ability to get so close to the residence of a Prime Minister is unimaginable and virtually impossible in most other countries so in one sense, it is a "gratifying and mind-boggling" tourist experience. It may appear to Ms Gillard that this behaviour is inexplicable and amusing but the appeal lies precisely in the contrast or incompatibility between the highest public office and her humble abode.

The third possible reason is that upon successfully challenging Kevin Rudd for the Labor leadership and hence prime ministership in 2010, she had declared she would not move into the The Lodge and would continue to stay in her Altona home, until she was elected by the people in the election. Hence, for a period of time, the most important affairs of the nation were conducted from a modest home in suburban Altona (Ref 4). Even after moving into The Lodge, whenever she returned to Melbourne, she did not follow the example of her predecessors in having hotel accommodation (Ref 5). Instead, she would choose to return to her modest house in Altona.

Finally, if Ms Gillard has never invited or accepted requests from journalists to take photos in her home, the mass media would probably have realized it is her wish to keep her home locale private. If her home is never reported in the mass media (TV or newspapers), it is unlikely that the public will develop an interest in her home.

Surprisingly, the media interest in her newly-purchased $1.8 million beachside property in Brighton, Adelaide (Ref 6) and the impending sale of her Altona house (Ref 7) did not cease with her departure from politics.

Rose shrub planted by the first owner Ted Blight

Some Statistics on 9 Medford Street, Altona

Year Purchased January 1998
(She first entered Federal Parliament in 1998)
No. of years she stayed 15 years (she is the 2nd owner)
Purchase Price in 1998 $140,000 (Purchased through a local real estate agent - First National Barlow McEwan Tribe Altona)
Expected Sales Price Above $600,000
Altona Median House Price
(over last 12 months)
Land size 603 square metres
Built Brick Veneer, Timber Floorboards
Extensive Renovation In 2008
No. of Bedrooms Three bedrooms
Ensuite main bedroom with walk-in-robe
No. of Living Rooms Two living rooms
(Rear extended into 2nd living room in 2008)
No. of Bathrooms Two bathrooms
Parking/Garage Small rear locked-up garage, good enough just for storing things.
Driveway long enough for parking of 3 cars.
Kitchen refurbished in 2008 Features an island bench and stainless steel appliances
Front Fence & Gate Erected in 2012, probably taxpayer-funded. There were security cameras installed but these were dismantled after she was no longer the PM.
Other Features Front porch, Decked area in the backyard
Medford Street Quiet 40 km/h street with large nature strips.
Houses only on 1 side (western side of street), the other side being the large field of Altona P-9 College.
Neighbours Mainly elderly couples whose adult children had moved out and a few young families. Next-door neighbours had helped to pick up newspapers thrown into her front garden and place them neatly in front of her front door. They had also helped to push out her garbage bins. Jim Mowing often came to mow both the lawns of Ms Gillard and her next-door neighbour.
Favourite Activities Ms Gillard loved walking around nearby Cherry Lake in the morning. Ms Gillard and partner Tim Mathieson particularly loved relaxing in the rear family room. "They loved the fireplace."
Mortgage Westpac Bank
Selling Agent Jas Stephens Williamstown
(Anna Grech:, 0438446051)
Date of Auction Sat 14/12/2013, 2 pm
Inspection Dates Sat 23, 30 Nov, 3.30-4pm
Sun 24/11/2013, 12.45-1.15pm
Links Online Ads, Brochure, Video
Scroll to bottom of this post to view the floor plan.

I am capable of some quite crazy suggestions, which I will list here:
  • I think if Ms Gillard would consider auctioning her original fruit bowl on eBay, this will be a novel way of raising money and awareness for a charitable/social cause such as highlighting the still prevalent discrimination towards women globally.
  • Jas Stephens could seize this "once-in-a-lifetime" free advertisement opportunity to promote its brand by providing free refreshments, souvenirs e.g. company stationeries (pens, diaries, stick-it notes, mugs, etc), children freebies (e.g. balloons) to the auction attendees.
  • This may be the most-watched 2013 auction in Altona, if not Melbourne. There are likely to be camera crews from TV stations and newspapers. Why not experience the actions and atmosphere in person?
  • People have been curious of Ms Gillard's Altona home. But so far, they could only satisfy themselves with the front view. This is the only opportunity to see what are inside. Of course, all her stuff were already moved out and substituted with hired furniture. But still this is the closest to the original picture - at least the internal structures are more or less the same.
  • Things have not been going well for Altona lately - unhappiness with the train services on the Altona Loop, unmet local demand for a Grade 7-12 high school, retrenchment at Altona's Toyota Plant, no Altona Beach Festival next year, etc. Residents could take this opportunity to lift their spirits out of the doldrums. Why not have a picnic on Medford Street on that day? Medford Street has very wide nature strips, plenty of space for picnic rugs and is scenic too - abound with greeneries and vegetation including Melaleuca trees, bottlebrush, lupines, kangaroo paws, ranunculus, roses, geraniums, jasmine, etc.
  • 9 Medford Street, Altona is an unofficial tourist destination in Altona (or Hobsons Bay). Of course, this is not being publicized and you have to do some work in finding out the address before you can visit it. Now this has become a publicly-disclosed location. I am thinking Hobsons Bay City Council could perhaps make use of the publicity offered by this auction as part of its tourism marketing strategy. For example, it may consider putting up a low-cost, half-day pop-up street festival on Medford Street - the type of mobile festivals that are popular in the US and just catching on in Melbourne. This would in some measures appease those Altona residents upset by the suspension of the perennial Altona Beach Festival (previously Bayside Festival) next year. Altona P-9 College could help by opening up their large fields to provide additional space and at the same time, conduct an Open House for prospective students and parents as well as organizing fundraising activities.
  • Hobsons Bay City Council or any other community-based organizer (such as the Altona Village Traders Association) could get local real estate agencies to sponsor this festival. Though other agencies are not selling this property, they may stand to benefit indirectly due to the heightened publicity surrounding the auction. They could set up booths to distribute brochures during the Festival. With the economy remaining in poor shape, people are pinning their hopes on a property sector-led recovery in Australia. Hence, a real estate growth in Hobsons Bay will be vital to its economy as it is pretty much affected by the decline in its manufacturing industry.
  • Prospective buyers will have to think more deeply about the possible consequences of their purchasing decisions. We do not know whether people's curiosity in the property will vaporize once Ms Gillard is no longer living there. After all, you cannot change the fact that the first female PM of Australia has stayed in this house during her period of office. It is precisely this celebrity factor that will demand a premium for this otherwise ordinary property. Hence, the successful buyer will need to be mentally prepared to potentially sacrifice privacy (of being visited and photographed) for a period of time until the public curiosity eventually fades away.
  • If possible and viable, the successful buyer could consider using this property for a business venture that capitalizes on its celebrity factor. Examples of possible ideas include:
    1. A holiday rental house featuring a Prime Ministerial suite and experience
    2. A cafe with the theme of Julia Gillard
    3. A museum featuring Julia Gillard with a gift shop selling political-themed souvenirs
    4. A chic hairdressing salon
    5. A combo knitting shop, school
    6. A leadership/celebrity club venue - for training, meeting, social purpose, etc
    7. A community radio station, that focuses on issues that Julia Gillard are interested in, e.g. political, education, gender, social inequality issues
    8. Top lucky draw prize for a fundraising lottery
    9. A filming set for a politically-inspired movie series, and so on

Apparently, Ms Gillard is hoping her unique status will be a strong selling point in helping her get a better price. Otherwise, she would have chosen a private sale instead of an auction. She would also have signed a confidentiality agreement with the real estate agent that legally forbids the passing on of this sale information to any other people, including the mass media. She would have expected news coverage of the impending sale would have generated widespread publicity and this in turn may help to create a bidding competition for driving up the final price.

The choice of a Williamstown-based real estate agent rather than a local agent in Altona may not be a deliberate move. But this could be a good and clever strategy. Williamstown has the highest median house price in the western suburbs. There has always been a migration trend within Hobsons Bay, with Williamstown residents exchanging their smaller lots with larger lots in neighbouring Altona. Use of a Williamstown-based agent may enlarge the pool of potential wealthy buyers. Free publicity by the mass media will mean that the catchment of door customers by local agents is no longer as vital a marketing strategy. 

Many people, including journalists, seem to harbour the idea that celebrities may be hankering after the residence of the first female PM of Australia. It will be interesting to see if Ms Gilllard's appeal will be strong enough to entice celebrities to bid forhis property. As an immigrant, I could not afford a property in a bayside suburb in my country of origin but I had realized this dream in Altona. I would not be surprised apart from local-born aussies, immigrants would find the thought of living in the residence of a former PM particularly exciting and appealing - something that would be their wildest dreams in their original countries.

Many houses in Melbourne have a name, which give them a sense of identity and history. The next owner may want to name this house the "Julia Lodge" to commemorate its unique history of having housed the first Female Prime Minister of Australia and having operated as "The Lodge" out of Canberra during Ms Gillard's reign as the PM.

This is Page 2 of the Brochure. You can scroll up to Page 1.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

A Tribute to Altona's Most Distinguished Resident

The nation was gripped with political tension, plotting, undermining and poll fever for the past three years. The drama started on 24 June 2010 when Julia Gillard became the 27th Prime Minister of Australia and its first female PM after Kevin Rudd was "knifed by faceless men" from the caucus of the Australian Labor Party. The manner she was brought to power has led to unceasing questioning of the legitimacy of her governance by the electorate as well as planting the seeds for divisions within the party.  On 26 June 2013, the political career of Australia's first female PM was cut short after she was defeated (45 to 57 votes) by Kevin Rudd in a leadership spill.

Julia Gillard has suffered the most disrespect and verbal abuse from her opponents, media and segments of the population never accorded to a previous Prime Minister. However, even her fiercest critics have acknowledged her immense strength, tenacity, toughness, steely determination and courage, which most men would have paled in comparison.

She can count among her achievements the following (which includes a number of firsts):
  • The pioneering status as the first female PM - a distinction forever hers. She pointed out in her concession speech that this will make it easier for future generations of female PMs.
  • Passing of 532 legislation by both houses where every piece of legislation needed to be painstakingly negotiated in a hung Parliament (Ref 1). A computation by the U.K. Guardian shows that Julia Gillard has achieved the highest rate in passing legislation at a rate of 0.495 legislation per day followed by Bob Hawke at 0.491 and Malcolm Fraser at 0.481 (Ref 2).

  • DisabilityCare, previously known as the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
  • Gonski educational reforms which aim to distribute funding more fairly to needy students (the Senate had passed the legislation on the same day Julia Gillard was ousted and the Rudd government still needs to negotiate with the remaining states yet to sign up).
  • Educational reforms such as the first national school curriculum since federation, the first national teaching standards, the introduction of transparency through NAPLAN and MySchool website, etc (Ref 3,4).
  • Australia's first serious action to tackling climate change through introducing the Carbon Pricing Scheme (Carbon Tax), transiting to an Emissions Trading Scheme in 2015-16.
  • National Broadband Network (NBN) - which runs into various implementation problems including massive delays in its roll out. The Coalition proposes a cheaper but slower NBN (Ref 5).
  • World's first Plain Cigarette Packaging Legislation - driven by Australia's first female Attorney-General Nicola Roxon (Ref 6).
  • Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse
  • Formal annual meetings between China's Premier and Australia's PM - an arrangement that China accords to only a handful of countries which include Britain, Germany, Russia as well as the European Union (Ref 7, 8, 9).
  • Australia became the third country after the US and Japan to secure a Direct Currency Trading Agreement with China (Ref 10, 11, 12, 13).
  • Strengthened relationships with the United States and India.
  • Winning a seat on the United Nations Security Council as a non-permanent member (Ref 14).
  • Fair Work Act
  • A $20 billion health reform agreement with the states - a watered-down version of Rudd's vision (Ref 15).
  • Minerals Resource Rent Tax - which greatly underdelivers by collecting negligible revenues so far - a consequence of both the collapsing iron and coal prices as well as its compromised, deeply-flawed design for getting the support of the three largest miners.
  • Murray-Darling Basin Plan
  • Passing of the historic Tasmanian Forests Intergovernmental Agreement and expansion of the existing UNESCO-listed Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area to include forests of the Weld, Styx, Florentine and Great Western Tiers after more than 30 years of campaigning (Ref 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21).

As you can see, Julia Gillard has left behind a rich legacy of concrete accomplishments, some of which are her own ideas, some of which are compromised versions of Rudd's visions and some which are forced upon her (Ref 22). In fact, Bill Shorten justified his critical defection from Gillard at the 11th hour on the grounds that Labor stands the best chance of defending the "Gillard legacy" under Rudd's leadership (Ref 23, 24).

Reuters may have summed it up best when it said that "while Gillard was liked least by those furthest from her office - voters - Rudd is liked best by those who have never had to work with him." (Ref 25). Hence lies the greatest irony of why Julia Gillard is so unpopular with the voters. Commentators have offered various reasons to explain her failings:
  • The electorate has never forgiven her role in toppling a popularly-elected Prime Minister.
  • Internal divisions, disunity and infighting within the Labor Party.
  • Having to deal with two opponents - Tony Abbott (in the open) and Kevin Rudd (in the dark).
  • Unrelenting negativity from the Opposition.
  • 24/7 news cycle and over-dependence on opinion polls for policy directions.
  • Breaking of promises such as the election promise not to introduce a Carbon Tax and the repeated promise to return the budget to surplus.
  • Price paid for forming a minority government and later sacrificing integrity to ensure survival of the government:
    • The government has become more inclusive by being more consultative with the Greens and independents. But it has also become beholden to the demands made by its minority partners e.g. acceding to the Greens' demand for a Carbon Tax and thereby breaking a key election promise.
    • Recruiting the Liberal turncoat Peter Slipper as the Speaker despite his dubious records.
    • Defending the scandalous Craig Thomson.
  • A number of policy blunders e.g. overturning of the Malaysian Refugee Swap Deal by the High Court, backflip on the asylum seekers policies, a poorly-designed Mining Tax, etc.
  • Flawed political judgement and election strategies e.g. announcing the election date too early, using the gender card, class warfare, controversy in parachuting former Olympian Nova Peris into Parliament, etc.
  • Discrimination towards women, particularly those in high office. In her concession speech, Julia Gillard said her gender "doesn't explain everything, it doesn't explain nothing, it explains some things. And it is for the nation to think in a sophisticated way about those shades of grey."

  • Accused of spin-doctoring and backfiring of the Real Julia strategy.
  • Ineffective communication of the government's achievements and visions.
  • Failure to gain the support of businesses.
  • Voters not buying that the economy is good.
  • Policy stalemate caused by a culture of entitlement and vocal interest groups. 
  • External factors that are beyond the control of the government:
    • Collapsing iron and coal prices leading to a much lower than forecasted revenue from the Mining Tax and creation of a budget black hole.
    • Collapse of the carbon market in Europe, making the carbon price in Australia unsustainable.
    • Climate of global economic difficulties.
    • Impending end of the mining boom, brought about by structural changes in China's economy.
    • Persistently overvalued Australian dollar, hurting competitiveness of Australian manufacturing and other industries.

Historical Judgement

Amidst the sea of criticisms in the media, there are actually a handful of commentators who have kinder words for her. Some had started to write her political epitaphs even before she was deposed as the leader.

Paul Strangio, an Associate Professor of Politics at Monash University believes that history will treat Julia Gillard with more sympathy than her legion of contemporary detractors. In 2010, the Politics Department at Monash University conducted a large-scale study of about 40 surveys asking leading historians and political scientists to rate the prime ministers of Australia. Strangio said that the rankings suggest that longevity in office and electoral popularity is not an automatic passport to a high standing. Rather what matter most to prime ministerial reputation are policy footprints such as the first serious response to climate change, Disability Care, NBN and the Gonski reforms that have the makings of a substantial legacy. Reputations take time to settle after a leader leaves office: passions cool and perspective is gained. Posterity will better judge the significance of her reforms and weight it against her incapacity to parlay the measures into electoral favour (Ref 26, 27).

Martin Flanagan, a senior writer at The Age has this to say:
"Once her political defeat is complete, her fortunes will turn.... Julia's exit from our collective psyche...will mark a new trajectory. Politicians such as Christopher Pyne come and go.... Gillard will not be forgotten.... People will return to her story again and again, even after she is dead, and, when they do, Howard Sattler and the Liberal fund-raiser menu will return to view and, with the passage of time, they will look even ruder, meaner and uglier... Other things will also become clearer.... Those who railed most loudly against her - the likes of Andrew Bolt and Alan Jones - will be seen to have histories of manipulating popular prejudice.... With the advantage of distance and cooler emotions, historians will ask such questions as: why was Gillard never able to overcome what she did to Kevin Rudd when Bob Hawke was able to overcome what he did to Bill Hayden?" (Ref 28)

Nicholas Reece who worked in Julia Gillard's office from 2010 to 2012 has a lot of praises for her in the following article:
"To those who knew her at a personal level, as I did, she was regarded as warm, good-humoured, dignified, hard-working and courageous... There was courtesy shown to staff, MPs, public servants and stakeholders - every person entitled to a view was given a chance to express it before a decision was made. Gillard would diligently work her way through the detail of an issue and then patiently execute an agreed plan to tackle it. She was generous with her time and did not rush people in the way busy leaders often do. She was never rude and never raised her voice, unless for humorous purposes... She was a genuinely affectionate person and had a quick wit that could be deployed to lift the spirits of those around her. At her instigation, birthdays were the subject of office celebration. This would involve Gillard turning up for cake and delivering a very personal speech to even the most junior staff.... In a crisis, she was supremely calm. While others wilted, Gillard had a resilience that allowed her to keep stepping up to the plate. She was good at remembering people's names, knowing their story, understanding their motivations and being able to see a situation from another's perspective.... "

What will she do next?

At just 51 years old, it is too young for her to retire. Jacqueline Kent, author of Julia Gillard's biography "The Making of Julia Gillard" said the former Prime Minister was likely to use the skills she gained in politics in a socially responsible way (Ref 29).
"She's not particularly status conscious. That's one of the nice things about her. I mean she has a very good sense of who she is but she is not chasing a title."
She thinks Julia Gillard won't be chasing ambassadorial or corporate roles like many former politicians do.
"I could see her working for some NGO, possibly in the area of education. That's where her heart lies."
I agree with former Labor strategist Adam Kilgour that Julia Gillard will have a significant career ahead. She could contribute her skills in so many roles, for example, as a:
  • patron/director of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)
  • advocate for women, education and other social causes
  • political or motivational speaker
  • ambassador/diplomat
  • political advisor/negotiator
  • writer
  • corporate role

I will actually like to see her conclude her signature and most important work - the Gonski educational reforms but that is not possible now. A lesson I have learnt from the comeback of Kevin Rudd is that everything is possible. There are many artistes who had publicly announced their retirements but later returned to the entertainment industry. In recent Australian politics, Bob Carr resigned as the Premier of NSW and retired from state politics in 2005. He was called back by Julia Gillard in 2012 to become the Minister for Foreign Affairs following the resignation of Kevin Rudd. When Nicola Roxon resigned earlier this year, there have been calls to ask the former Victorian Premier Steve Bracks to run for the Federal Seat of Gellibrand she is vacating. Hence, we cannot rule out any circumstances that will herald her return to politics in the future. It is still fresh in our minds that PM Kevin Rudd has said before he will not return to the leadership under any circumstances.

As an Altona resident, I will like to welcome her back to her home suburb and hope that I will have the opportunity to say hello to her, since she would have more time at home now. She probably has not taken a break for many years and now is the opportunity for her to enjoy the beauty of Altona leisurely!

Timeline of Julia Gillard's Career

Other references: 30, 31, 32, 33

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Winter Solstice @ Westona

About a week ago, I received an email that has the word Westona in its subject title. Westona is the name of the last train station on the Altona Loop and came from the winning entry in a council-run naming competition, held probably in 1984. It was suggested by Alan and Betty Angus to mean "West of Altona" (Ref 1).

I live near Westona station and it is not very often (in fact this is the first time) that I receive an email relating to Westona. Naturally, I will be interested in knowing what activity is being planned in my neighbourhood. I found out that this email is from Transition Hobsons Bay (THB) and it is an invitation to attend a potluck gathering in celebration of the winter solstice.

I have not been to a THB activity for a while and I thought this will be a good opportunity to meet more people as our social networks are quite limited. My wife too agrees and we settled on bringing dumplings - something that we perceive as a "safe" food as many people would have tried dumplings and should therefore have no problem accepting this dish.

After receiving the address from the host via SMS, I realized that the event is held in what is known locally as the "birdcage" district of Altona. This is a triangular residential area west of Westona train station and south of the train tracks, bordered by Truganina Swamp to the west, Maidstone Street to the east and Somers Parade to the south. All its streets are named after birds such as Seagull, Dove, Kookaburra, Emu, Robin, Curlew, etc. In fact, the area does have many birds due to its proximity to Truganina Swamp which is a haven for many species of birds.

The winter solstice falls on last Friday 21st of June. The hosts Dy and Kerrie explained to us that it is the shortest day of the year and this is a fixed date every year. Fortunately, that night was not as cold as the days before or after. It was still possible to sit around a bonfire in the back garden before we adjourned to the inside of the house for the potluck dinner.

I was surprised to see quite a considerable turnout of probably more than 20 people, including kids. Most people live around the area while there are people who come as far as Newport and Spotswood. The foods are wonderful. There is a variety of soups with different colours - green, yellow, orange and so on. The hosts and many others are apparently avid gardeners, which is reflected in the ingredients of the food they have prepared. This is not surprising as THB is a group that promotes sustainable living, conservation and a respect for the environment.

We learn many things from this gathering. My wife learnt how the host Dy prepares a healthy snack by baking the kales she has planted. After baking, the kales become crispy like dried Japanese seaweeds and taste a bit like potato chips. I had also tasted her wholesome and delicious homemade raisins and dried apple slices made from her organic garden produce.

Apart from food, I also learnt much about other stuff, such as exercises that work the gluteal muscles and why the weather in Brisbane is not preferable over that in Melbourne. The gathering is a delightful experience for my wife. She met a number of teachers, including an English language teacher and was captivated by a particular conversation in which the speaker was relating her experience of living five years on a small island, 500 metres wide, north of Fiji. Our kids also enjoyed the event very much, having made a new friend and together, they made the new environment their exploratory grounds. We are glad that we attend this gathering and we will attend more THB activities in the future.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Altona Beach Festival 2013 Program

The annual Altona Beach Festival is coming again. It will be held this Saturday 23rd March 2013 from 10 am to 8.30 pm. The main venue is at the Logan Reserve Precinct while the Classic Car and Bike Show is held at Apex Park. You can read about last year Festival here and about the Classic Car Show here. You can download a PDF copy of the 2013 Altona Beach Festival Program here.

Altona Beach Festival 2013 - 01

Some highlights include:
  • RAAF Museum Flyover at 4 pm
  • Street Parade at 5.30 pm
  • ABBA tribute band, BABBA at 7.15 pm
  • Fireworks at Altona Beach at 8.30 pm
  • Classic Car and Bike Show at Apex Park
  • Historic Double-Decker Bus Tours
  • Street Market

Altona Beach Festival 2013 - 02

The map showing the locations for the various activities is embedded below. Click on the map's maximize, zoom in/out and scroll buttons.

There will be two stages this year - one at the usual location in Logan Reserve, near the Altona Homestead and the other on the Esplanade near the Surf Lifesaving Club. The stage programmes are shown below.

Altona Beach Festival 2013 - 03

For further details, please refer to the official Altona Beach Festival 2013 Facebook Page.

Saturday, February 16, 2013


Paynesville is a seaside resort in East Gippsland, 298 km east of Melbourne and 17 km south of Bairnsdale. Located in the middle of the Gippsland Lakes and surrounded on three sides by the water of Lake King and Lake Victoria, Paynesville is known as the boating capital of Victoria. This area encompasses Paynesville, Raymond Island, Eagle Point and Newlands Arm.

Canal 04

Paynesville was originally called Toonalook which is an aboriginal name for a place of many fish. The Post Office opened on 8 Nov 1879 as Toonalook and was renamed Paynesville in 1886 by the Dickson family who still reside in the area.

Canal 05

Paynesville is a thriving town well served by a range of shops, cafes, a bank and a newly built community centre and library. Much of the town's recent growth has stemmed from the development of a network of canals and prestige homes which have created two artificial islands within the township.

Paynesville 35

Burrabogie Island is north of the waterfront shopping district, and Fort King Island is a residential area north of Burrabogie Island. Although Burrabogie and Fort King Island are separated only by an approximate 5 metres wide man-made canal, they are the most distant points in Paynesville by road.

Canal E

Paynesville's commercial centre is located on the inland side of The Esplanade, thus it overlooks the beautiful waterways and foreshore just across the road.

Grassy Point Marina 01

There are extensive lawns, stretches of sand, boat ramps and a pier along the southern shoreline. The eastern shoreline along McMillans Strait also includes lawn areas but is more geared towards boating with several marinas, jetties and Fishermans Wharf with its waterfront cafe and restaurant.

Grassy Point Marina 11

St Peters by the Lake Anglican Church, located in an elevated position on Sunset Drive, overlooks the surrounding lake. It has been architecturally designed to resemble a ship and was built from Gippsland limestone bricks in 1961.

St Peters by the Lake Anglican Church 02

Eagle Point

North of Paynesville at Eagle Point, the Mitchell River enters Lake King. The Eagle Point Bluff Lookout provides good views over the lake, river and surrounding countryside.

Silt Jetties 01

At the river mouth, there are two narrow peninsulas of land known as the Silt Jetties which stretch out into Lake King. At 8 kilometres long, they are the second longest of their type in the world after the Mississippi River Silt Jetties. They were formed over millions of years by deposition of sediment along the river's mouth as the waters slowed on reaching the lakes system.

Silt Jetties Holiday House B
A holiday accommodation on the silt jetties

Visitors can drive along a narrow dirt road along one of the jetties to its end.

Raymond Island

Raymond Island is a small island (only 6 km long by 2 km wide) in the Gippsland Lakes, just 200 metres off the coast across from the town of Paynesville. It is linked to Paynesville by the Raymond Island Ferry - a vehicular chain ferry which has been running since 1889.

Raymond Island Ferry 01

The ferry takes 2 minutes to cross the McMillan Strait and departs regularly. It is free for pedestrians and bicycles while there is a charge for vehicles ($10 return). There has been continuous local debate over the construction of a bridge to allow for better access and further development.


Raymond Island has a small residential population and is well-known for its large koala population, originally introduced to the island in 1953. Thirty-two koalas were taken from Phillip Island to Raymond Island, as an insurance population for a species then believed to be threatened. Raymond Island has since become one of the easiest places in Victoria to spot wild koalas.


The island is also home to over 60 bird species ( including rainbow lorikeets, honey eaters, parrots, black swans, white egrets, sea-eagles) as well as wallabies, echidnas, blue-tongued lizards, manna gum, southern mahogany, banksia, wildflowers and some orchids.

Ref: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 , 6, 7, 8