Former Parliamentary Speaker and ex-Member for Fisher, Peter Slipper, and his wife Inge open up in a tell-all interview with The Tunnel.
I arrive at the Slipper residence on a rainy Sunshine Coast afternoon. A friend answers the door and offers to fetch the Slippers. I’m shown to a cosy lounge room and my hosts arrive. I don’t know what to expect but I’m surprised to find the Slippers so warm and comfortable.
They are almost too friendly, insisting I stay on for their traditional Sunday evening seafood night.
“Mussels?” offers Peter. “Freshly squeezed pineapple juice? Home made dips?”
Inge tells me that the food, like their marriage, is real.
“Would you like a shower?” insists Peter. “You’re soaked through.”
I politely decline. After delicious hors d’oeuvres, I try to get down to more serious matters.“I don’t know what to expect but I’m surprised to find the Slippers so warm and comfortable.”
The Slippers are reluctant to speak about James Ashby or “that vicious little mussel” as Peter describes him. They are clearly worn out by the incessant talk of that scandal. Inge deftly moves the conversation to more pleasant topics – their antique shoe horn collection, the weather, Peter’s pet mussels. While pleasant diversions, Peter notices my agitation and eagerness to get back to James Ashby.
“You want to talk about Ashby, don’t you?” he says perceptively.
“What gave me away?” I ask.
“You’ve been jingling your car keys non-stop since you got here.”
Peter offers me a bowl to put my keys in. Clearly I’m not the only nervous guest as the bowl is full of other keys.
“You want to talk about those text messages, don’t you?” says Peter. “The thing is they were taken completely out of context. I just love mussels. And women, of course.”
Inge adds that, like their marriage, Peter’s love of women is also real.
To reinforce this, Peter eats a fistful of mussels with obvious relish.
At this point, Inge must have remembered something on the stove. She rushes off and doesn’t return for some time.
In the meantime, Peter reflects upon his life in politics. He describes his short-lived membership of the Palmer United Party as “a lost opportunity”. His decision not to bash Mal Brough with a shovel was “also a lost opportunity”. However, his “biggest lost opportunity” was not running for the Senate.
“With the number of votes I got at the last election, I could have won a Senate spot in Western Australia,” he sighs.
When Inge returns, she and Peter talk of their hurt at their treatment by the media and their old party. Peter – or ‘The Slipper’ as he now insists I call him – feels particularly betrayed by Tony Abbott, who was a guest at his and Inge’s wedding.
“It was a real wedding,” says Inge.
It’s hard to reconcile this one-time friendship with the role the now Prime Minister played in trying to sink The Slipper. It is a point I try to explore but it is too late.
The Sunday evening seafood night is upon us. Inge and The Slipper plead again for me to stay but there is only so much I can swallow in one afternoon.
I leave the Slippers to their dinner and to themselves – a lost opportunity I suspect I will never regret.