“We’ve lost our greatest advocate,” Onions Australia CEO Lynn Bulb said over the dramatic events this week that saw conservative prime minister and renowned onion lover Tony Abbott replaced by Malcolm Turnbull, whose attitude to the vegetable remains untested.
“You’d be surprised how hard it is for the onion industry to get its voice heard in the media, let alone the halls of power,” Bulb told The (un)Australian. “Mr Turnbull is not returning our phone calls, so we really don’t know yet exactly how the leadership change is going to affect us.”
The onion lobby has enjoyed unprecedented attention in recent months due to Mr Abbott’s widely publicised love of eating raw onions. But a spokesperson for Mr Turnbull has refused to guarantee similar patronage of Australia’s onion industry, telling The (un)Australian: “Onions? What? Ah… it’s not really a matter Mr Turnbull has discussed.”
In a sign that Mr Turnbull would seek a more consensus-based approach from his predecessor, who publicly chomped into a raw onion without consulting colleagues in one of his controversial “captain’s picks”, the spokesperson suggested: “Any policy on the question of government support for any sector of Australian agriculture is really a matter for the joint party room to discuss.”
Rumours are rife in Canberra, however, that Mr Turnbull has already met with representatives of the truffle industry to discuss some high-profile touring of truffle farms, as well as put out feelers to kale growers and quinoa importers.
These early signs of a shift in prime ministerial vegetable preferences has raised questions about the future of Australia’s onion industry. There are fears it could go the same way as the Iced VoVo sector after its high profile promoter, Kevin Rudd, was twice defeated as prime minister. Hundreds of factories dedicated to producing the beloved biscuit, which famously make a delicious accompaniment to a cup of tea, have since closed at the costs of thousands of jobs.
Others whose careers have been imperiled by the change in prime minister are veteran Australian rockers Boom Crash Opera, who had hoped to secure a late-career revival on the basis of renewed interest in their 1989 hit “Onion Skin”.