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Not all visitors head over heels with Lodge

Date

Maybe it had something to do with the weather.

The long queue of people outside The Lodge that snaked steadily through the ground-floor rooms of the Prime Minster's residence had a distinctly muted air as it emerged through the back garden yesterday.

Many visitors had arrived well before the opening time of 10am for The Lodge's annual open day, and the crowd grew as the day went on.

OPEN GARDEN: More photos at The Lodge

The open day is part of a yearly fund-raising event held by the Australiana Fund, which provides furniture and art to Australia's four official residences.

One of these, Government House, was also open yesterday, and many visitors took in both so as to better make informed judgements on the grandeur - or lack thereof - of the current abode of Julia Gillard and her partner Tim Mathieson.

Visiting Canberra from the Queensland town of Gympie, Lynn and Ross Forward were excited to see where the Prime Minister lived, and were surprised by how small the house was, especially compared to Government House.

''The Governor-General had beautiful lounge chairs everywhere you looked,'' Mrs Forward said.

''But this is older than I thought, and it certainly isn't as grand as I thought it would be. It's homely - it feels like something more for older people. But that's just what I think,'' she said, adding that the gardens and surrounds were ''very nice''.

Mr Forward was surprised at how inconspicuous The Lodge was.

''It's just in suburbia and it's not shown on any maps, but of course that's deliberate,'' he said.

Natalie White, of O'Connor, brought her three young children to see The Lodge, and declared herself ''underwhelmed''.

''We only got to see three rooms. And even the dining room - at Government House it seated 30, and here it only seats 10.''

Jacob, 8, was disappointed the house was ''a bit small and a little bit old''.

But Jessica Yeo, of Downer, was pleasantly surprised by the Prime Minister's digs, and particularly admired the paintings and furniture, although she was disappointed the tour didn't involved the famed flat-screen television that Ms Gillard had installed. ''It's really dignified, and I like that it's of its time,'' she said of the 1920s-era home.

''Why modernise it when it's a stately home, not a reno?''

Her father, David Payne, visiting from Wagga Wagga, agreed. ''Anyone who wants a bigger and better house should move to Sydney,'' he said.

''It's not a parliamentary democracy if the prime minister lives in a mansion, is it?''

Inside the house, however, Steven Cavanagh, visiting from Sydney, was aghast at the size of the formal living room.

''This is for someone who's running our country - how do you entertain dignitaries here?'' he said.

''This room would be full in a minute. I'm shocked.''

He said it made sense that the residence had only ever been temporary, but questioned why a permanent residence had yet to be built. ''Is this the best they can do? There's nothing really going on except running the country. I think this should be classed as temporary,'' he said.

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