Australia's foreign minister has defended Canberra's reputation after one of the country's top diplomats slammed the city as "one of the biggest national mistakes we ever made".
"I have been working in Canberra for two decades now and seen it grow and develop in amazing ways."
"Canberra is a great city and a wonderful place to live or stay."
Mr Quinlan told a group of journalists in the Indonesian capital, "I'm not a fan of Canberra, never have been, I think it's one of the biggest national mistakes we ever made".
He indicated some relief that he had delivered his outburst against Canberra, saying "now that I've got that off my chest".
Senator Payne attempted to rebut her diplomat's claim by listing Canberra's strengths:
- "Great lifestyle and cultural mix
- leading educational institutions like ANU
- ground breaking defence and IT industry
- home to iconic national institutions such as the Australian War Memorial
- centre of the leadership of the Australian public service"
Mr Quinlan's anti-Canberra tirade came when he was talking about the Indonesian government's plans to move its capital to a new site. He and his staff were sharing the Australian experience of choosing a new capital.
"There is a lot of exchange of that information which is beginning," he said, according to press reports of the meeting.
Mr Quinlan is one of Australia's highest ranking diplomats. He heads what is one of Australia's biggest diplomatic missions abroad in a country seen as crucial to Australian interests.
He was also Australia's representative at the United Nations and served two terms as president of the UN Security Council.
Politicians associated with Canberra had rushed to defend their home city before the foreign minister waded in.
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said Canberra was home to the best educated, healthiest, longest living and happiest Australians.
"Canberra is Australia's greatest regional development success", he said.
"Our city has been ranked as the world's most liveable city according to the OECD Better Life Index [and] our economy has grown to be larger than the state of Tasmania and is now the sixth largest in Australia."
And the Liberal Senator for the ACT, Zed Seselja, said it was "completely unacceptable behaviour by an Australian official to bag our nation's capital while overseas.
"Mr Quinlan needs to pull his head in. I have raised my concerns about this behaviour directly with the Foreign Minister."
It is not known when Mr Quinlan's term ends and when - or if - he will return to Canberra.