May 03, 2004 | Unknown

Dine Out With Darlene: Interview With Senator Amanda

Figuring Amanda, or Mandy as I will soon be told not to call her, is used to fine parliament house style dining I choose Cuisiny A La Classy, that well-known haunt for C list celebrities, for our meeting. I arrive early and thus ensure we get a table near the wine rack.
Twenty minutes and a prawn cocktail later Amanda barges through the door, a blinding vision of purple, orange, green, yellow, fuschia and tartan Versace. After jostling through some probably unemployed youngsters who can’t afford to be here anyway, the Senator plonks herself down on the seat opposite mine and demands we begin.
Wanting to assure her my dream job is to write puff pieces for a lowbrow Murdoch rag, I enquire as to the whereabouts of her husband on this lovely Spring day. “Tony has to do chores on the weekend or he doesn’t get any pocket money”, she answers. I nod approvingly at this extension of government policy into the marital relationship and receive a warm smile for my sycophancy.
I congratulate Amanda on becoming Minister for Immigration last year but make sure she knows I understand dealing with asylum seekers is surely no more fun than putting up with Centrelink clients. She winces and asks if there’s too much pepper on my Steak Dianne (note to self: remember to practice my sympathetic look before interviewing sick Fijian kiddie).
Attempting to overcome the awkwardness that follows my potentially career ruining faux pas, I suggest Amanda tells readers what direction Immigration is taking now she’s in charge.
“Well, look”, she booms before seguing into anecdotes about an aged veteran not receiving his full entitlement while bludgers receive more than their fair share, metaphorically dancing on Skase’s grave and her involvement in a drug bust where Freddy, her beloved puppy, got to be a police pooch for a day. Having done my research, or at least looked in the dictionary before I got to the restaurant, I make a joke about how that is appropriate since the Weimaraner is a gun dog.
Sensing it was a mistake for either of us to sit near the wine rack, I try to bring Amanda back to the topic by proposing she allows detention centre staff to wear shirts like hers, or at least a cheaper department store variety, so the inmates will be less grumpy and po-faced when they appear on television.
“Well, look, I don’t know about that”, Amanda replies before adding, “but I am thinking about trialling mutual obligation in the centres. You know, I can’t always find time to make homemade dog bikkies so I think detainees could do it in return for board and lodging”.
I offer mine, and Australia’s, endorsement for the idea and inform her that detainees will be just as enthusiastic because they know they’ll need some job skills for when they go back to wherever it is they’ve come from.
Though Amanda is confident her Asylum Seekers’ Pet Care Program will increase her reputation as the most caring and moderate member of the Howard Government, I sadly advise her that there are some people, just academics and serious journalists mostly, who don’t think she is caring and moderate at all. Sensing Amanda’s hurt, I wish the critics were there so I could ask them why they don’t think overpaid pensioners should have to return taxpayers’ hard-earned money.
Amanda decides to talk about the many differences in opinion between the conservatives and moderates in the Federal Liberal Party. I nod agreeably for the 20 minutes it takes her to try and think of something before she abandons the venture as a waste of time since it’s only pointy heads and washed-up hacks who think Liberals are all the same (note to self: get massage this afternoon because I have sore neck from nodding in agreement).
While Amanda is away at the sundae bar, her press secretary informs me that she has got a 3.00pm appointment with Woman’s Day, followed by a 4.00pm with The Women’s Weekly so we will have to wrap it up when she gets back.
With Mandy’s, oh sorry Ama…. no I am not allowed to say that either, Senator the Hon Amanda Vanstone’s return, I thank her for giving me her precious time and wish her the best.
“Pleasure”, she sharply retorts and then departs in a whirl of colour that should have alerted that bloke in the wheelchair she was headed his way.
This is an edited version of an article that appeared in The Chaser. Visit my website right here.

Posted by Unknown at 1:30 pm | Comments Off on Dine Out With Darlene: Interview With Senator Amanda |
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