Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott gets $12,000 monthly from taxpayers for the maintenance of a luxurious house in Canberra. Mr. Abbott does not live in the house.

The Canberra house was leased by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet temporarily as a replacement for The Lodge, which is presently undergoing major renovation. Elizabeth Kelly, a senior official at DPMC, informed that a 12-month lease had been signed by the department in August. The lease was finalized a week before the federal elections Sep. 7.

Abbott could not inspect the property before the department signed the lease document. Neither did Kevin Rudd, the prime minister then, inspect the property due to commitments related to the election campaign. Rudd informed that it was the department's aspiration to find an accommodation in the same league of The Lodge.

The prime minister decided to stay in a less luxurious flat in Barton after the election was over. Sen. Cory Bernardi inquired about the property Monday during a hearing on Senate estimates. He asked how many people were living in the property that required $3,000 a week from the taxpayers. Rudd replied that the property was vacant. She also informed that the department had come to know about Abbott's decision not to stay in the more luxurious house soon after the election.

Rudd noted the department had been in the process of negotiating with the owner of the property so that lease could be dismissed. However, the department has yet to be successful in the effort, as Rudd claimed they were still in the process of negotiations.

If the department was not successful in negotiating the dismissal of the lease, taxpayers would have to pay around $156,000 for the complete duration of 12 months. Taxpayers have already paid over $30,000 for the unattended luxury of the prime minister.

Sen. Bernardi said it was unwise for the department to finalize the deal even before the election. They could have opted for a less expensive property as the taxpayers are not going enjoy paying $156,000 for a vacant building, he stressed.