Kennedy in auction hot seat with Speaker's Chair
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Kennedy in auction hot seat with Speaker's Chair

  Hot seat: Australia's first Speaker's chair will go under the hammer with a price tag from $300,000.

Hot seat: Australia's first Speaker's chair will go under the hammer with a price tag from $300,000.Credit:John Shakespeare

Australian Parliament’s very first Speaker's Chair is available to buy as part of businessman Trevor Kennedy’s private collection which will be put for auction at the end of the month.

Kennedy sold almost half of the collection of Australiana-themed furniture, curios and collectibles earlier this year to the National Museum of Australia in Canberra. The chair - which is regarded as the most valuable item of the lot - was the subject of separate negotiations between the museum and the businessman that appear to have gone nowhere.

It’s now been put to auction with a price guide of $300,000 to $500,000. Perhaps that’s the reason the museum baulked. The historic item has attracted interest from Aussie buyers based in the UK and the US according to Leonard Joel auctioneer Hamish Clark.

Any offshore buyer would have to negotiate tough export restrictions if they wanted to move it out of Australia. Such a key piece of Australian history leaving the country may also become a political issue.

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The upholstered chair has seen a bit in its time. It was first used at the opening ceremony for the Parliament of a federated Australia, which took place in the Melbourne Exhibition Building on May 9, 1901. The Duchess of York, who later became Queen Mary, used the chair at the ceremony as her own personal perch. After that, it was used by Australia’s first Speaker, Sir Frederick Holder, who claimed the chair was a requirement of office. He presided over the first Federal Parliaments from it until 1909, when he slumped forward in the chair and died at 5am after a marathon sitting of Parliament.

By that point, the chair was less than a decade old. We know this because the blackwood frame still carries its maker’s stamp of Charles Johnston & Co of Gertrude Street, Fitzroy from 1900.

(There’s also a stamp on its underside which reads, unfortunately, 'EUROPEAN LABOUR ONLY'). Holder's family was given the chair, which was later bought by Mr Kennedy.

There are more than 1200 lots to go under the hammer in the sale which all come from Kennedy’s Australiana collection.

FOOTY FOR LIFE

This column noted Opposition leader Anthony Albanese’s absence at The Everest at Randwick on Saturday and the fact that he was likely to have had a scheduling clash given the South Sydney Rabbitohs played the NRL semi-finals on the same day.

It’s worth noting that more than a few of the Labor leader’s appearances at Bunnies matches have come as freebies. An update to his register of interests notes that during the NRL season, he was a guest of South Sydney as a life member (an honour he’s had since 2013, natch.) He also attended three matches as a guest of the NRL.

Meanwhile, this column also noted earlier in the week that National Party leader Michael McCormack put in an appearance at The Everest. Turns out he was a guest of Ron Finemore Transport. Good to know.

NEW IN THE KITCHEN

Things appear to be looking up for George Calombaris, the former MasterChef host whose Made Establishment restaurant empire collapsed into administration earlier this year.

Billboards have popped up across Melbourne in the past month spruiking Calombaris’ new venture 5pm Cook Along, a food delivery service which has gathered thousands of Instagram followers.

There has also been a win on the finances front. He has sold his mansion in Melbourne's Toorak.

Title documents show a caveat was lodged on the McMaster Court property last week under a sale agreement first signed in July. Not much is known about the 35-year-old buyer, Chinese born Ka Ning Cheung, who is linked by company documents to a business called CHZH Finance.

The price has also been kept under wraps. George and his wife, Natalie, paid $4.75 million for the pad in 2013 - a deal sealed at the height of the souvlaki and chips with feta boom.

Sold: George Calombaris's home in Toorak.

Sold: George Calombaris's home in Toorak.Credit:Jason South

An expression of interest sign was first placed outside the five-bedroom French provincial-style home on February 10, the same day corporate undertakers KordaMentha were appointed to pick over the carcass of Made.

The collapse forced the closure of 12 venues, including the souvlaki chain Jimmy Grants and three Hellenic Republic Greek restaurants. At the time, the company employed 364 permanent and casual staff. Meanwhile, former Swisse vitamins boss Radek Sali, Made's sole director, did his dough to the tune of $11.5 million.

Various bits of the business have been flogged off since. Part of the Jimmy Grants went to the owners of Melbourne Greek institution Stalactites, while the Yo-Chi frozen yoghurt stores ended up in the hands of the sons of Boost Juice founder Janine Allis.

That sale was completed to satisfy Made’s largest creditor, the Commonwealth Bank, which was owed $8.5 million.

Prominent immigration agent Lily Ong handled the deal. On Tuesday, the agent and solicitor said she was representing the new owner, but was coy when contacted by CBD, noting that the house is not in Calombaris's name (it’s in the name of his wife).

“Other than that I can't comment,” she said.

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