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Business lobby unhappy about calls to boycott Woolworths over Australia Day ban

Some of Australia’s largest business groups have backed Woolworths’ controversial decision not to sell merchandise for January 26 this year after boycott calls saw shares fall.

The Business Council of Australia and the Australian Retailers Association, both powerful pro-mass immigration lobby groups which supported Labor’s failed Voice to Parliament, weighed in after Opposition leader Peter Dutton said Australians should shun the supermarket giant, which is 88.84% foreign-owned.

BCA boss Bran Black hit out at Mr Dutton on Friday and said Woolworths shouldn’t be punished for acting in its own interests.

“Businesses shouldn’t be boycotted because they make commercial decisions based on demand for products from their customers”, he told the Brisbane Times.

Woolworths cited “gradual decline in demand” when it announced it would not sell Australia-themed products this year, but also stated “there’s been broader discussion about January 26 and what it means to different parts of the community”.

ARA CEO Paul Zahra suggested Woolworths had decided to prevent Australians from purchasing products to celebrate their national day because it was against their own values and those of customers and staff.

“Retailers will often make business decisions around societal issues that align with their company values and the expectations of their customers and staff,” he said.

“Corporations today are increasingly engaged in societal issues, reflecting their own values and the expectations of their stakeholders, which include customers, employees and the communities in which they operate.”

Woolworths shares fell by 1.5% on Friday after Mr Dutton’s boycott call, which was echoed by United Australia Party director Craig Kelly.

NSW Premier Chris Minns called Woolworths’ move “bizarre” and the supermarket came under fire several other state and federal MPs including Bob and Robbie Katter.

But far-left Indigenous former Greens senator Lidia Thorpe backed the corporate behemoth, saying “January 26 is a day that brings memories of invasion and pain, so I look forward to seeing more leaders in our communities recognising this, as Woolworths has.”

Woolworths increased its supermarket earnings by 20% in the last financial year, with the company’s net profit rising 4.6% to $1.62 billion while Australia suffered through an ongoing cost-of-living crisis driven by high inflation, interest rates rising at a record speed, and housing and rental price increases while unprecedented levels of mass immigration keeps wages low and demand high.

The Woolworths Group was the largest Australian company by sales in 2022, and also has the highest foreign ownership at at least 88.48%, research by The Australia Institute revealed. Coles owner Wesfarmers was at least 78.63% foreign owned.

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