Shorten's piping hot meat and greet

All he wanted was a pie. Sometimes what a man needs is just that: a pie.

But when federal workplace minister Bill Shorten walked into Carlton North Foods in Melbourne on Thursday afternoon to satisfy his straight-up longing for a tasty stew of mince meat encased in a crisp pastry shell, what he got was a hot serve of back-chat.

The putative pie purveyor, shop-keeper Annie Huang, said she informed the Cabinet minister she was all out of hot pies. She would be happy to microwave one for him, she said, but it would be soft.

Not everyone likes a soft pie.

Upon hearing this disappointing news, Mr Shorten became abusive, Ms Huang told Fairfax radio.

If true, he would certainly not be the first man thrown into a rage when so denied, but Mr Shorten narrates the story differently.

He says that Ms Huang told him that the pies were ''soft, like Julia Gillard''. He took this as an insult to his leader, exited the shop and told her that he would no longer be purchasing her pies, or darkening her doorstep at all.

Not even for a pastie or a mini-quiche.

As with all great contemporary mysteries, CCTV footage was released.

The film shows a mannish figure, unmistakably Shorten-esque, entering the shop, perusing the goods, and then walking out soon after, in what may or may not be a huff. Oh - and look now! - there he pauses at the door, swivels his head and retorts something in the direction of the cash register.

In an effort to clear up the misunderstanding, Mr Shorten gave a doorstop interview, with what will surely go down as the greatest lament in Australian political history: ''I think she was giving me political advice when all I wanted was a hot pie''.

But Ms Huang said that what she actually said was: ''The pie will be soft. I like Julia Gillard.''

Which is surely the greatest non-sequitur in Australian political history.

Mr Shorten apologised and Ms Huang will no doubt recover from the episode.

What have we learned?

That politics and pastry don't mix, that the Labor right does not take kindly to being labelled ''soft'', and that microwaved pies never did please anyone.

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