No accommodation in Canberra, Senator Lucy Gichuhi gets free stay at Kenyan High Commission
South Australia’s newest federal senator says she and her family accepted free accommodation from the High Commission of Kenya in Canberra after struggling to find anywhere else to stay during her first week in Parliament.
Independent Senator Lucy Gichuhi has also revealed in Senate disclosure forms that she owns three properties in her native Kenya and has six mortgaged residential properties in SA.
Federal politicians receive a $276 per night travel allowance when in Canberra but Senator Gichuhi was unable to find anywhere for her family to stay for her swearing-in on May 9.
“My family and I stayed at a house provided by the Kenya High Commission for one week on the week of my swearing in,’’ Senator Gichuhi wrote.
“ … this was budget week and it was difficult to secure accommodation for the whole extended family.’’
Senator Gichuhi replaced Family First’s Bob Day, who quit the Senate last year and was later declared by the High Court to have been ineligible to sit in Parliament.
The new senator was sworn in on Budget Day, a time when hotel and motel accommodation is usually scarce in Canberra. A spokesman for Senator Gichuhi said the only remaining rooms would have cost approximately $300 per night for two people.
“The Senator was hosting six additional family members for several nights,’’ the spokesman said.
“An alternative house, having been vacant for a month, was offered by the Kenyan High Commissioner Isayah Kabira. It was gratefully accepted.”
The High Commission also hosted a celebratory dinner for Senator Gichuhi and declined her offer to help pay for it.
“Senator Gichuhi sees her position as an opportunity to strengthen Australia’s relationship with Africa, at a time when Australia has dramatically reduced foreign aid and is dealing with a food crisis and potential genocide in South Sudan,’’ the spokesman said.
Dozens of members of Senator Gichuhi’s extended family attended her swearing-in.
According to Senator Gichuhi’s Senate statement of registrable interests, she and her husband have mortgages on their Mawson Lakes home, three investment properties in Whyalla and investment properties in Gilles Plains and Dernancourt.
She also owns a home occupied by relatives and two “idle blocks of land” in Kenya.
“Whilst I am not aware of any other interest in real estate, I have arranged for search to be done in Kenya to ensure this is the case,’’ she said.
Senator Gichuhi decided to sit as an independent after the Family First party voted to merge with Senator Cory Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives party. She has kept a relatively low profile since being sworn into the Senate and is yet to reveal her positions on contentious political issues, including the Federal Government’s proposed Gonski 2.0 school funding reforms.