Australia, I Beg You To Make The PM Shut Up About Onions

I don’t know what it is about this country and onions, but it’s deeply disturbing.

Our last-but-one prime minister Tony Abbott hit headlines when he publicly bit into a raw onion, and then on a later occasion did so again, as if trying to debunk an urban myth that he was not, in fact, the strangest person in Australian history. Now onions have made the news again, in what is if anything an even more annoying way.

It’d be bad enough if the public palaver was restricted to Bunnings suggesting (not requiring) that onions be placed under the sausage at a sausage sizzle, and we Australians doing that aggravating “let’s all act like an objectively unimportant story matters deeply to us, it’ll seem really cute” thing that we always seem to do because developing personalities is too much work.

But of course, it’s not restricted to that: obviously the prime minister had to weigh in, because this human race is nothing if not half-witted. So the Honourable Scott “Hello, fellow larrikins” Morrison declared, “Whether the onions are on top or underneath, I’ll always be buying sausages on bread.”

Now, Morrison’s opinion on onions was certainly a more reasonable one than Karl Stefanovic, who pronounced “this will ruin Australia”, furious because that’s his job. But Karl Stefanovic is paid to be a blithering idiot. Scott Morrison is the prime minister, and the revolting thing about him speaking out on onion matters isn’t what he said, but the fact he shouldn’t have voiced an opinion at all, and if he did, none of us should have ever known about it.

I’m not actually blaming Morrison for this.

The reason he spoke about onions was because he was asked about onions by a journalist, and it’s to the journalists of Australia I wish to address my simple plea: stop doing that.

I repeat: Scott Morrison is the prime minister. If you, as a journalist, have a question about the roles and responsibilities of the prime minister -- like for example, “how will your new health care policy be funded?” or “How do you sleep at night?” -- you should definitely take the chance to ask it.

If you have no questions about these roles and responsibilities, but only have questions about onions and sausages and hardware store carparks, you should definitely keep your stupid mouth shut and go home.

Malcolm Turnbull eats a vietnamese roll in Danang, Vietnam in, 2017. (Image: AAP)

This is what politicians love. They love it when journos ask them stupid questions about what they like to eat, what they do on their weekends, their favourite footy team or whether they wear boxers or briefs.

They love any question about the ways in which they are ordinary knockabout Aussies just like us, just as much as they hate any question about what the hell they’re doing at work and why they’re so bad at it.

Scott Morrison, like most politicians (and “most” is being incredibly generous) is engaged in a comprehensive lifelong attempt to win over the public. That’s fine, that’s his job. As the leader of the Liberal Party, he is expected to manufacture and maintain an image, to try to avoid as much genuine scrutiny as he can, to convince voters  he cares about them, and to keep unpleasant truths out of headlines.

You can’t expect him not to do that anymore than you can expect a tick not to burrow deep into your flesh and gorge itself on your rich, delicious blood.

Bill Shorten eats a sausage sandwich on Election Day 2016.(Image: AAP)

But see, the media doesn’t actually have to help the prime minister do this. Journalists should be actively trying to stop them doing it. They should be as dogged in calling out and nipping in the bud politicians’ efforts to flip the switch to cute ‘n’ cuddly as the pollies are in lunging for that switch in the first place.

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If a politician wants to stage a photo op with his family so he can show the country how jolly a dad he is and how much fun he has frolicking with his Labrador, the gallery should immediately respond with a chorus of “Bullshit”. If a politician invites journalists along to a demonstration of their 10-pin bowling skills, they shouldn’t even show up.

Tony Abbott eats a sausage in 2010. (Image: AAP)

It should go without saying that if a politician starts gibbering about onions, any journalists present should cut him off immediately and demand to know exactly how racist he considers to be racist enough for a federal government.

The fact that our country’s journalists not only can’t do this, but they actually feed him questions about onions so that he can skip happily away from actual issues without even trying makes one suspect that they only got into political journalism because they hoped it would be a stepping stone to covering Marvel movie press junkets.

So I’m begging members of our national media: shut up about onions. Make the prime minister shut up about onions. Don’t write stories about what the prime minister thinks about onions.

Don’t write stories about what songs the prime minister puts on his Spotify playlist. Don’t write stories about the colour of the prime minister’s eyes or his stance on pineapple on pizzas or whether he has an innie or an outie.

Write stories about what the prime minister does when he’s actually being prime minister. Because every second you spend doing anything else is a second spent making it easier for him to cajole us all, and the PM is incredibly grateful to you for it.

Also, just for the record: you shouldn’t even be getting onions at a sausage sizzle. It’s gross.