Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Photo: Kate Geraghty
Public service bosses in Tony Abbott's department are not keen to talk about royal portraits that have appeared at their Canberra headquarters in the wake of Mr Abbott's election victory.
Workers at the Department of Prime Minster and Cabinet were surprised to find a portrait of Queen Elizabeth hanging in the staff briefing room when they filed in on Wednesday for Mr Abbott's first meet and greet with his new department.
PM&C insiders say the portrait of the Queen was not there before the election victory of the staunchly monarchist Prime Minister who was a key player in the "No" campaign against the republican referendum in 1999.
Surprise! A portrait of Queen Elizabeth II has made its way into the Department of Premier and Cabinet. Photo: AFP/Philip Toscano
The departmental rank and file is also buzzing with unconfirmed talk that another royal image has appeared in the executive suites in the upper reaches of the National Circuit building.
"Next they'll be making us curtsey when he comes into the building," one departmental staffer grumbled.
The department's media unit made it quite clear it was not amused when approached by Fairfax Media about PM&C's new royal décor.
When asked if the portraits were installed at the behest of the Prime Minister or his office, "No" was the testy response.
Responding to a series of follow-up questions, the department's spinners said they did not want to talk about it any more.
"We responded saying no, as the Prime Minister has not ordered the installation of portraits of the Queen at the Department's building," the PM&C statement said.
"We have no further comment on the subject."
Mr Abbott, in his address to the troops, did not mention the portrait, steered clear of potentially vexed constitutional issues and instead re-iterated his message of respect for the commitment, dedication and professionalism of the Australian Public Service.