Vandals have done it again. They have returned to Canberra's beloved statue of prime minister Ben Chifley and broken off his pipe. They first committed the act of gross vandalism just under a year ago. The sculptor, Peter Corlett, then refashioned a new pipe, and it was welded back on four months ago - but the vandals have returned and snapped it off again, possibly with the help of a saw. "I'm just dumbfounded," the sculptor said. "It's stupid. It's silly. It's mindless." The pipe was Ben Chifley's trademark when he was treasurer from 1941 and then Australia's 16th prime minister from 1945 until 1949. It presented a reassuring image of him to the Australian people as the nation's dependable uncle. He appeared in war time cartoons swathed in puffs of smoke. The statue of him walking alongside predecessor and 14th prime minister John Curtin, was commissioned by the ACT government in 2011. The brief to the sculptor was that the work should be modelled on a famous photograph of the two colleagues and friends walking together to the old Parliament House. It was unveiled by the 27th prime minister, Julia Gillard. (In case you're wondering, the 15th prime minister between Curtin (14) and Chifley (16) was Frank Forde but only for seven days). Mr Corlett said he made the two men walk out of step in his sculpture to make a point that their policies were slightly different. He felt it captured an "innocence" of the time - two political giants walking alone in public. The pipe was there on the statue for a decade until the person or persons unknown removed it. The motive was obviously unfathomable but the assumption the first time was that it might have been some sort of drunken passer-by (though the amount of effort and the need for tools undermined that theory). And the return of the vandal or vandals could indicate something much more deliberate. Many had loved the statue. In a cold winter, some put scarves on the two men (one with a label saying: if you need it, take it). When Corlett heard of the first desecration, he resolved to remake the pipe. He made a mould in wax and had the pipe reforged in bronze. He did not charge a commission. He is now at a loss. To put the pipe back might only incite the vandals further. READ MORE: The second act of vandalism saddened Jon Stanhope, the ACT's chief minister from 2001 to 2011, who commissioned the work in the first place. He was at a loss to know what should now happen. "I think there are only two realistic options namely concede defeat to the philistine responsible for the damage and don't bother to replace the pipe or move the statue. On balance I would suggest not replacing the pipe is the more reasonable approach." He despaired over the amount of vandalism inflicted on public art in Canberra. He has wondered in the past whether cameras should be positioned to keep watch on public sculptures. "There is a role for CCTV," he said. Mr Stanhope commissioned the statue of the two prime ministers and suggested they be depicted as they were photographed walking near the Kurrajong Hotel where MPs stayed when Parliament was sitting. The site was chosen carefully to try to match the location exactly to where the two were photographed in 1945. Trees in the background in black-and-white pictures then were compared with the present day trees. Ben Chifley's original pipe, by the way, was deliberately chosen as a political device. According to a caption at the museum at the humble house in Bathurst where he lived even as prime minister, he originally smoked cigarettes, but in the 30s a local council official suggested to him that a pipe would give him a more reassuring demeanour. He agreed and took up the pipe. It also became a useful device for delaying the answering of a difficult question. He would take out his pipe and go through the full pipe-smoker's ritual with tobacco and matches - and all the time thinking about the answer. Very hard questions would demand two matches and a lot more puffing.