Today show host Karl Stefanovic has gone to town on Woolworths boss Brad Banducci in a savage grilling on morning television over the supermarket's controversial decision not to stock Australia Day merch in its stores.
The supermarket made the announcement earlier this month, following in the footsteps of Kmart which axed its Australia Day range last year. Aldi has since announced it will follow Woolworths' decision also.
Despite fierce backlash from Aussies across the country, including from Opposition Leader Peter Dutton who called for a "boycott", Woolworths stands firm in its decision and continued to defend the divisive move on Wednesday.
Woolies accused of being 'anti-Australian'
Appearing on Today this morning, Chief Executive Brad Banducci reiterated that a declining demand in sales of the merchandise was the reason behind the move, which has been dubbed "woke" by some. He insisted the company isn't "anti-Australian" when quizzed by Stefanovic and his co-host Sarah Abo.
"So you’re not anti-Australia today as a company?" Stefanovic asked the Woolies boss again in a heated discussion on Wednesday morning.
"Karl, we are a very proud Australian company. We’ve been around for 100 years. We have 178,000 hard working team members who are going to be in store doing the right thing for our customers on Australia Day, and we’re passionate about this country," Banducci said in response.
"But you’re not anti-Australia Day?" Stefanovic asked again.
Woolies stores to display Aussie colours
Banducci conceded the day "means different things to everyone" and the supermarket leadership supported Australians to commemorate the day in whatever way they wish. He added that while customers won’t be able to buy the merchandise, stores around the country will be decorated in "green and gold" to commemorate the national day. He admitted the decision was made almost 12 months ago.
Drilling Banducci some more, Stefanovic shot back, "You must have serious regrets about this?". Banducci admitted the company "could clearly have done a better job of explaining our decision".
"I do feel anxious about the impact that this is having on our team," he added. "They are proud, hard-working Australians, and for them to be seen as anti-Australian or woke is fundamentally unfair."
The remarks come as one Woolies worker revealed to Yahoo News he's already been confronted by disgruntled shoppers seeking Australia Day paraphernalia — and believes the behaviour will only get worse in the lead-up to January 26.
Backlash following controversial Australia Day decision
Following the announcement to stop selling Aussie Day products, social media erupted with Aussies eager to express their views on the divisive topic. Australia Day has become an increasingly contentious day in the calendar, with growing support for the date to be changed. January 26 marks the day Britain's First Fleet landed in 1788, and in turn, began the oppression of Indigenous Australians.
On X, formally known as Twitter, TV personality and Sky News contributor Prue MacSween branded Woolies "hypocritical" and "out of step with mainstream Aussies".
"That’s it for @Woolworths for me. No longer selling Australia Day merchandise because some people get offended by it," she wrote.
While Prime Minister Anthony Albanese stepped away from the debate, instead urging Aussies to "give respect to First Nations people" and reflect on what it meant to be Australian, Dutton said, "I think it’s an outrage, to be honest".
with NCA Newswire
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