Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is potentially endangering the lives of his family, staff, neighbours and the Australian Federal Police officers who protect him by choosing to defy tradition and live in his own mansion rather than lodgings provided by the taxpayer.
That’s the opinion of top security experts, who told The New Daily that the official Prime Minister’s residences, Kirribilli House in Sydney and The Lodge in Canberra – which remain empty – were designed to deal with the security issues surrounding a prime minister, but his harbourside mansion was not.
Those criticising the Prime Minister’s decision include security personnel who have worked on the official residences.
Security experts believe his mansion, in Sydney’s most expensive suburb of Point Piper, is vulnerable to attack from the busy harbour, from the unsecured streets and houses surrounding it, and from the air.
Roger Henning, director of security firm Homeland Asia/Pacific and security adviser to several Australian prime ministers, told The New Daily: “It is dangerous, selfish, arrogant and is putting AFP officers at risk. His Point Piper mansion is wide open.
“The unoccupied official PMs residences of Kirribilli House and The Lodge have specifically designed, state-of-the art, fully integrated security systems.
“These multiple protective security features must remain operational, with official residences fully protected by the AFP, while Mr and Mrs Turnbull remain unconcerned at doubling up on government security expenditure. It is dangerous. He has brought the terrorism threat into his harbourside neighbourhood.”
Mr Turnbull’s luxury four-storey mansion on Sydney Harbour is worth more than $50 million, exceeding the combined value of the homes of every Australian prime minister since World War II.
The doubling up of security at both official and private prime ministerial residences is estimated to have cost the taxpayer $3 million to date.
Dr Tony Zalewski, a forensic security specialist at Global Public Safety who has degrees in law and criminology and is a security risk adviser to governments locally and abroad, told The New Daily the location of Mr Turnbull’s home in a residential area made it impossible to secure.
“The office demands a certain level of security and it cannot be achieved in a private residence,” he said. “A comprehensive risk assessment is the basis for any security strategy and needs to consider the local area.”
The Prime Minister’s insistence on living at Point Piper creates an unnecessary risk to AFP officers, neighbours of the property, the local community and staff who may attend on a routine or daily basis.
Dr Tony Zalewski
Director of Strategic Alliances at Homeland Security Asia/Pacific, Michael Roach, who has worked as a security risk adviser for government buildings for two decades, told The New Daily: “It is totally unnecessary … We are in a heightened threat in Australia in regard to officials and dignitaries.”
The New Daily contacted the Prime Minister’s office, but his staff declined the opportunity to respond to the concerns raised.
“We do not comment on security arrangements,” a spokesperson for the Prime Minister said in a statement.
A high price
President of the Australian Federal Police Association (AFPA), Angela Smith, told The New Daily maintaining two official residences in both Canberra and Sydney was not financially responsible.
“Funding security on two prime ministerial residences is an indulgence that taxpayers cannot afford,” she said.
“Security at these locations is a significant financial burden on the taxpayer. The AFPA urges the Prime Minister to rethink his decision to stay at his personal residence in Point Piper over the official residence of Kirribilli.”
Australian National University’s leading terror expert Professor Clive Williams told The New Daily: “It is a costly indulgence. Large amounts of money have to be spent on trying to bring the private residences up to an adequate level of protective security – when that level of security is already available elsewhere.”
Mr Roach said Mr Turnbull was putting other people at risk: “Prime Ministers have a role and the expectation from the public is that they live in tax-funded premises.”