Opposition leader Peter Dutton has been accused of dividing the nation following comments he made regarding retail giant Woolworths’ decision to no longer offer Australia Day-themed merchandise.
Earlier this week, Woolworths announced its decision not to stock Australia Day-themed products due to a noticeable decrease in consumer demand.
However, what was intended as a business decision quickly became a political battleground when Dutton called on Australians to boycott the grocery giant.
“For Woolworths to start taking political positions to oppose Australia Day is against the national interest, the national spirit,” he told 2GB.
“If (customers) don’t want to celebrate Australia Day, well that’s a decision for them.
“Until we get common sense out of a company like Woolworths, I don’t think they should be supported by the public.”
Agriculture Minister Murray Watt swiftly responded to Dutton’s call for a boycott, accusing him of attempting to exploit a sensitive issue for political gain during a time of economic hardship.
“He’s out there fighting yet another culture war, talking about what kind of products that supermarkets sell,” he told reporters on Thursday, January 11.
“This is just typical of Peter Dutton: negative, always seeking to divide people, always shouting at Australians rather than actually bringing people together to tackle the real challenges that matter.”
Australia Day’s controversial nature has long fueled heated discussions, but Woolworths’ recent stance has ignited the debate to new heights. Some applaud the decision, seeing it as a respectful acknowledgment of complex cultural issues. Others strongly oppose it, arguing it undermines traditions.
Although a Woolworths spokesperson highlighted that there had “been a gradual decline in demand for Australia Day merchandise” it did little to soothe tensions on the matter
“At the same time there’s been broader discussion about 26 January and what it means to different parts of the community,” the spokesperson added.
“We know many people like to use this day as a time to get together and we offer a huge variety of products to help customers mark the day as they choose.
“Woolworths and BIG W celebrate the best of Australia every day, and we’re proud to support the farmers, producers, and suppliers who work with us.”
Whether Dutton’s calls for a boycott is an attempt at political point scoring or not, what is certain is the ongoing debate regarding Woolworths’ decision speaks to a larger issue about the contentious nature of Australia Day and its significance today.