Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has called on Australians to boycott Woolworths after the supermarket revealed it would no longer sell Australia Day products.
Mr Dutton took the bold step of “strongly advising (Australians) to take their business elsewhere”, describing the controversial decision as “an outrage”.
“It’s up to customers whether they want to come in and buy the product or not… I think people should boycott Woolworths.”
Australia’s largest supermarket, which also owns Big W, confirmed on Wednesday that no items related to January 26 celebrations will be stocked on shelves.
A spokesman claimed there was no longer demand for merchandise, but Dutton said chief executive Brad Banducci appeared to be trying to “follow the Alan Joyce mould” and impress Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.
Joyce resigned as Qantas chief executive in 2023 amid several controversies, including questions about his close relationship with the prime minister and his staunch defense of a Yes vote in the Voice of Parliament referendum.
For many First Nations people, Australia Day is considered “Invasion Day” or “Day of Mourning” (pictured, people at a protest against Voice to Parliament in September)
“Until we get some sense into a company like Woolworths, I don’t think it should have public support,” Mr Dutton said.
‘As we saw with Alan Joyce and Qantas, it seems these chief executives are trying to please the Prime Minister with these stupid decisions, and it makes no sense to me.
‘For Woolworths to start taking political stances to oppose Australia Day… goes against the national spirit. I think most Australians just want to go to Woolies and buy food at the cheapest price possible because most find it difficult to pay the bill when they get to the checkout at the moment.’
Dutton called on Banducci to step up and overturn the Australia Day merchandise ban, calling it a “bad decision”.
But Agriculture Minister Murray Watt hit back on Thursday afternoon, accusing Dutton of trying to reignite a culture war while the government wanted to “move on” by trying to cut grocery bills.
“(We’re) focused on things that really matter to Australians,” Watt said. “Talking about what kind of products supermarkets sell, I don’t think that’s the priority Australians have at the moment.”
“This really shows Peter Dutton’s kind of priorities.”
A Woolworths Group spokesperson said: “With food at the heart of our grocery business, we aim to offer customers food and products for all occasions, including Australia Day.”
Dutton said Woolworths was part of a group of large businesses that advocated for Indigenous Voice in Parliament.
The supermarket chain was criticized for its decision and analysts believe corporate support for the Yes campaign contributed to the referendum being soundly defeated in all Australian states.
Voice critic Matthew Sheahan, who led the No campaign, told Daily Mail Australia that Woolworths is “adding insult to injury” by pulling Australia Day merchandise from shelves after the loss of Voice.
‘When will the corporate elites who run companies like Woolies learn their lesson?’ she asked.
‘Instead of easing cost-of-living pressure on Australians, Woolworths invested $1.55 million in the losing Yes campaign.
“Now they are adding salt to the wound.”
Sheahan is now campaigning for Australia Day to be “protected by law”.
Woolworths confirmed on Wednesday that no additional Australia Day-themed products would be sold in its supermarkets or Big W stores for this year’s public holiday.
“While Australian flags are sold at BIG W throughout the year, we do not have any additional themed products available to purchase in-store at our supermarkets or at BIG W prior to Australia Day,” a spokesperson said.
“We know that many people like to use this day as a time to come together and we offer a wide variety of products to help customers celebrate the day however they want.”
Woolworths joins Kmart in stopping stocking the items, with the discount retailer making a similar announcement in 2023.
The retailer said “broader discussions about what January 26 means for different parts of the community” influenced the decision.