12 January 2024

Is Dutton really more triggered by plastic flags than price gouging? Or is this No 2.0?

| Chris Roe
Start the conversation

Peter Dutton and Jacinta Price head back to the baracades in time for Australia Day. Image: Chris Roe.

In a week when high supermarket prices and low returns for farmers have dominated the political headlines, federal opposition leader Peter Dutton has called on Australians to “boycott” retail giant Woolies.

Surprisingly, his latest attack on big business has little to do with Woolies declaring $1.72 billion in profits in the face of a cost of living crisis and a federal enquiry into supermarket pricing.

Nor is it about allegations of underpaid workers, foreign sweatshops or undeclared political donations.

What’s really got up Mr Dutton’s nose is the availability of Chinese-made plastic flags and inflatable thongs and what they represent to our national identity.

“I think it’s up to customers whether they want to go in and buy the product or not,” Dutton told Sydney’s radio 2GB in response to Woolworth’s decision not to stock Australia Day merch.

“If they don’t want to celebrate Australia Day, well, that’s a decision for them, but I think people should boycott Woolworths.”

In fact, the Woolworths Group, which includes Big W, was joined by Kmart and Aldi in declaring that this year, they wouldn’t be stocking up on Aussie flag-themed hats, capes, stubby coolers, bunting, party glasses, bikinis, umbrellas, bow ties and inflatable Kangaroos.

Never mind that discount stores are already overflowing with ocker accessories by the kilogram and there will no doubt be plenty of flag-themed landfill to go around!

READ ALSO ‘The prices do not stack up!’: Riverina MP supports calls for fruit and veg inquiry

Woolies argued that it is about the dollars and a “decline in demand for Australia Day merchandise” but added weakly that their decision was also linked to a “broader discussion about January 26”.

Sensing a familiar fight, the opposition leader doubled down, invoking the W-word and adding a cost-of-living postscript as an afterthought on social media.

“Woolworths should focus on getting grocery prices down, not on peddling woke agendas,” he posted.

Despite Woolies and Aldi deciding not to stock up for January 26, bargain stores will make sure there are enough flagcapes to go around. Photo: Chris Roe.

Labor’s Agriculture Minister Murray Watt was trotted out on Nine’s Today to accuse Dutton of stoking a “culture war” at the expense of real issues like “the prices we’re paying at checkouts”.

But once you invoke woke, it’s hard to get the toothpaste back in the tube and questions of free markets and philosophical perspectives on the role of government in business were drowned out.

Politics in the 2020s is a war of ideas, and Peter Dutton knows that stoking the 24-hour media cycle with polarising soundbites is the key to success.

It’s a tactic that saw him turn the tables on the newly minted PM who thought he had an election mandate to introduce the Indigenous Voice to Parliament in 2023.

READ ALSO POLL: WTF? How did Albury beat Wagga in the swearing stakes?

With rising star Jacinta Nampijinpa Price shining at his shoulder and deflecting accusations of racism, Dutton strode into the fraught arena of Indigenous politics brandishing a mix of obstinate uncertainty and jingoistic pride and appealed to Australia’s conservative core and idea of a fair go.

He cast corporations that backed the Voice as moralising and meddling elites and emerged from the bruising campaign as a genuine political contender.

“First Woolworths tried to tell Australians how to vote on the Voice, now it is trying to cancel Australia Day by not stocking products with our national flag,” Dutton posted on Thursday (11 January), clearly intent on maintaining the rage.

Australia Day has long been an ideological battleground for Aboriginal rights advocates, but momentum has surged and the wider population has weighed in with the push to “change the date”.

Jacinta Price is a veteran of Australia Day stoushes and the seasoned contrarian is once again gearing up to fight at Dutton’s side.

By pouncing on the villainous Woolies in the same week supermarkets came under fire over price gouging, Dutton has caught a wave of popular rage that he hopes will propel him through the next fortnight to January 26 and beyond.

Original Article published by Chris Roe on Riotact.

Start the conversation

Daily Digest

Want the best Riverina news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riverina stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.