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Escape hatch in Lodge facelift

Now there's another way out.

Now there's another way out. Photo: Andrew Meares

EVERY political leader under pressure needs an escape route every now and again, and Julia Gillard - assuming she manages to stick around - is about to be given another.

Deep in a stack of bureaucratic files detailing upcoming multimillion-dollar renovations at The Lodge is a single intriguing sentence. ''The project includes the provision of an escape door in the Adelaide Avenue guardhouse, which will be located off the current change room,'' it says.

It invites a vision of Ms Gillard, or perhaps the spouse equivalent, Tim, slipping into disguise in the handy change room and escaping into the merciful night should the appointments secretary make a dreadful blunder and invite unwanted guests - the Rudds, say - for dinner.

The escape door is a mere detail in monumental re-building works that will require the Prime Minister to move out of The Lodge for at least seven months from the end of this year. The old residence will get, among other things, a new slate roof - one that ought to make a Welsh-born PM feel right at home.

The existing slate, according to papers prepared by the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, ''is performing poorly and of an intrusive grey colour''. The solution is to replace it with a green slate. And it will be imported. From Wales.

''The selection of slate,'' declare the documents, written in heroically public service-speak ''was based on the attributes of the original slate and specifications (such as the colour and size), quality and whole-of-life costs.''

There will be a sparkling new commercial kitchen and servery installed to replace the existing kitchen and staff lounge. The old scullery and butler's pantry and flower preparation area, built during the late 1970s when Malcolm and flower-loving Tammy Fraser were in residence, will disappear. The plan, according to the documents, ''better enables future opportunities to reinstate details of the original 1920s breakfast room such as the fireplace and doorway on the south-east porch''.

The Lodge, powered by the original 1920s cotton and rubber-covered wiring, will be re-wired to ensure it doesn't burn down. Asbestos in the attic, basement, scullery and eaves will be removed and ''replaced with suitable fabric that is consistent with the heritage values of the place''.

The voluminous plans don't say where Ms Gillard and Tim might live while the old place is being torn apart. Or whether the escape door is two-way, allowing a return to those who flee, seeking asylum.

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