Flat Earth: Polished off

ON to The Lodge, official prime-ministerial residence in Canberra, where I learn that Mr Keating's combative approach continues after working hours. The latest cause of battle was a repro mahog 'Regency- style' dinner table he and Mrs Keating had ordered by catalogue from Thailand. The Australiana Fund, which is responsible for kitting out official residences, insisted that the table go back where it came from, because it was not Australian enough. Mr Keating, an antiques collector who prides himself as something of an expert on his lits-en-bateau went bananas, according to my man disguised as a french polisher.

I fear Mr Keating may have gone too far this time, giving Margaret Betteridge, the head of the Australiana Fund, a verbal bombardment that would have made even the stout- hearted President Suharto turn pale. A few days later, Ms Betteridge said she was retiring early. 'The Keatings,' she declared, 'were not willing to accept my advice on acquisitions.'

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