Stroganoff-gate was the story that kept on giving this week.

This marvellous, and heart rending, pictorial from The Herald Sun was a high point:

 But nothing beats the conversation between ABC Brisbane’s Madonna King and The Age‘s National Affairs Editor Tony Wright: Listen here or read on…

KING: I guess it raises a couple of questions — should politicians on $130,000 a year be asking the lower house to spend tax payers’ money to investigate food portions in the staff canteen… and secondly, how much is enough beef stroganoff to satisfy you?

… now Tony we’ve got to declare your interest here first up.

WRIGHT: I certainly will… I didn’t want to get involved in this, but my wife is the caterer. She owns the company that is the caterer that has just got the contract for parliament house.

And this pathetic creep who went into parliament to complain about things…did it because his wife, obviously forced him to do so…

KING: but, but…

WRIGHT: …a larger lady who couldn’t deal with the fact that she got an ordinary serving of Beef Stroganoff.

KING: But it does sound extraordinary and all sides have said that parliament’s probably not the place..and when we’re talking about pensioners…did the Speaker have to say that it would be investigated? Should he have just dismissed it?

WRIGHT: …the Speaker is the guy who ticked off the contract, he knows how it all works. This is …unbelievable that this has become a story.

The facts are that the Speaker, being one of the presiding officers, is actually in charge of Parliament, you don’t get a contract in Parliament until the Speaker and the president of the Senate ..have it investigated and make sure that  it’s okay. And they were perfectly happy with it, and still are, by the way,  perfectly happy with it.

KING: But take away from that just the politics of saying that, would he have had a phone call from someone from Kevin Rudd’s office to say look, there are bigger priorities?

WRIGHT: I would have thought that probably everyone from Kevin Rudd to … every one of his colleagues came down on him and said ‘John, you are a d–khead.’…

KING: [Pause.] That’s fairly strong words.

WRIGHT: Well, not they are not strong words, they would have been a lot stronger than that. I mean, here we are, Parliament House is consumed with a debate about how people live on a pension and…

KING: But in a way, because your wife is connected with it, I want to stay away from with actually the canteen thing, and more the issue of, as the rest of us are talking to pensioners and taking phone calls from pensioners…we’re talking about subsidised meals in a canteen.

WRIGHT: Not subsidised, by the way, not subsidised, $7.90, take away your GST, it’s $7.10 for a large plate of Beef Stroganoff, in this particular case, which, by the way, there are about 6 different meals that change daily… and some person goes in there, and goes completely beserk, by the way…

KING: Yes well I want to go past that Tony, and we have gone to John Murphy to try to chat to him, he put out an apology last night…

WRIGHT: A grovelling apology…

KING: So I move onto something else…

WRIGHT: Sorry Madonna

KING: I think we should…

WRIGHT: [Laughing] I’m defending my wife here!

KING: Yeah I know but we don’t get you on here to defend your wife, we get you on to talk politics.

WRIGHT: No I know…

KING: Yes…

WRIGHT: I mean politically it was an incredible circumstance, to stand up in parliament and bring up this, when parliament is discussing… you know… in the world you’ve got a financial crisis that is caving in the … United States economy and having a large effect on Australia, you’ve got pensioners who are screaming about having to live on $273 a week and a politician uses one of the major parts of the parliamentary day to go into parliament and complain on behalf of his wife about having to pay $7.90 for a meal… I mean, are you surprised that this has made the front page of many papers?

KING: No and I guess that’s why we’re talking about it, I’ve just talked to Malcolm Turnbull about it too…Look forward to talking to again next week Tony…

WRIGHT: [Laughs] Thanks very much Madonna

KING: That’s Tony Wright from The Age newspaper, very unhappy man this morning, and I did want to talk to him about a few other issues but I think that’s very much on his mind this morning…

After Madonna put poor Tony in the doghouse, she seamlessly cut to a competition calling for recipes for the best Beef Stroganoff, adding, “Tony Wright can’t enter this…”

Peter Fray

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