Elitist Board Tarnishing The Reputation Of Woolies

Written by:
16 January 2024
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In this article, Daniel Wild contextualises and disseminates the findings of the IPA’s research into Australians’ attitudes to the involvement of big businesses in politics.

Woolworths is trying to pull the wool over the eyes of Australians by asserting its choice to pull Australia Day merchandise from its shelves was a commercial decision.

To be sure, its announcement claimed the decision was made because of “declining demand”. But no evidence was provided to support this assertion. And in the very same statement, the Woolworths board admitted “there’s been broader discussion about January 26 and what it means to different parts of the community”.

It seems likely that the only “broader discussion” taking place in the boardrooms of woke corporates – like Woolworths – has been about demeaning and diminishing Australia Day, with the ultimate ambition of seeing it stripped from our calendar.

And Woolworths has form, having supported the divisive Voice to Parliament, which could hardly be defended on any business or commercial grounds.

This is why Opposition leader Peter Dutton was spot on when he called for Woolworths to be boycotted earlier this week.

Unlike many other politicians, Dutton hit the nail on the head when he said, “to start taking political positions to oppose Australia Day is against the national interest, [and] the national spirit”.

Mainstream Australians have had a gutful of big corporations dividing our nation and devaluing our culture and history. Australia Day is more than just paper plates and straws. It is a day when we can, and should, come together as a nation to celebrate the values which define us: freedom, democracy, tolerance and egalitarianism. These are aspects of our national character which define our way of life and which have attracted millions of immigrants eager to share our journey.

Seriously. Was there anyone on the Woolworths board who noticed what happened on October 14, when 60 per cent of Australians, including an astonishing 37 per cent of Labor voters, rejected the Voice to Parliament? Woolworths’ board has obviously misinterpreted the lesson of the divisive Voice to Parliament debate and is now attempting to cancel Australia Day by stealth. Misreading the national mood is never good for business.

Woolworths’ astonishing behaviour is just another example of corporate Australia’s state of disarray. An exit poll conducted at the Voice to Parliament referendum, commissioned jointly by the Institute of Public Affairs and Advance Australia, found that 64 per cent of Australians agreed that big businesses’ engagement in political debate did not represent their values. Only 4 per cent disagreed.

This view was shared among Coalition, Labor and Greens voters. But it was Greens voters who were most sympathetic to big business, with 56 per cent agreeing, compared with 87 per cent of Nationals voters, 70 per cent of Liberals and 58 per cent of Labor voters.

It appears that Woolworths’ top brass is oblivious to how much damage they are doing to their reputation in the eyes of the community, many of whom begrudgingly shop there because of a lack of competition.

In addition to its anti-Australia Day activism, Woolworths (and other supermarket chains) stand accused of failing to pay farmers fairly for their produce, while at the same time charging shoppers higher prices in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis.

President of the National Farmers Federation David Jochinke recently said: “We need to get to the bottom of why there’s a growing gap between what farmers get paid and what produce is being sold for on supermarket shelves.”

Jochinke went on to say: “Small family farming businesses are at the mercy of large corporates that dominate Australia’s food supply chain.”

But all of these actions are condoned by an elitist board, comprised of out-of-touch political activists. Of the nine members of the Woolworths Board of Directors, four are also directors of companies which either openly supported or funded the Yes campaign for the Voice to Parliament, namely Qantas, Telstra, Origin Energy, NAB, and ANZ.

Many of Australia’s largest corporations now represent the views of the cosseted, wealthy, inner-city elite, having abandoned any pretence of serving the interests of mainstream Australians, their customers.

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