Livin’ large in London with Lord Downer

He may have grown up in the place, but that doesn’t mean Australia’s High Commissioner to the UK, Alexander Downer, actually owns Stoke Lodge in London. He certainly doesn’t pay the bills there – that great honour falls to the taxpayers of Australia, who last year picked up a tab of around $120,000 in catering costs for the host with the most.

New documents released under Freedom of Information give an insight into just how extravagant the former Liberal Minister’s hospitality can be, with details of Lord Downer’s fine dining menu revealing one dinner alone, for then-Prime Minister Abbott and his key advisors in 2014, came in at a whopping $350 a head.

Mr Downer and his wife joined Mr Abbott, his Chief of Staff, Peta Credlin, and three senior advisors for the soiree at Stoke Lodge on 12 August 2014, where guests supped on a starter of Scallops 3 Ways, Crumb Bonito, Tart Tar and Chilled Velvet Chowder followed by Pan Roasted Lamb Loin, Sun Dried Tomato and Feta and Preserved Lemon. For those still peckish, a final course of Farmhouse cheeses with pickles and chutney made a suitable accompaniment for the fine wines that no doubt flowed steadily alongside the culinary feast.

Labor’s waste spokesperson, Pat Conroy, said it was a ridiculously high price to pay for a meal.

“The bill for this dinner was 1,261 Pounds, which was the equivalent of around 2,285 Australian Dollars at the time,” Mr Conroy said.

“If we put aside the fact that Tony Abbott and Alexander Downer are long-time friends, and this is not what we could call a tough meeting, is it really appropriate for a dinner of this kind to cost around $350 a head?”

“They certainly like the finer things in life, don’t they?”

“There are numerous other examples where the High Commissioner was able to host Ministers with far less expense than this.”

“Even if we look at the farcical example of the Commissioner’s dinner to honour the Justice Minister’s visit, which he didn’t even attend, we still have are looking at a total cost of 639.60 Pounds. That’s around half the price of the Abbott dinner, for twice as many people.”