The Leader of the Opposition, Peter Dutton, is facing immense backlash for advocating people to boycott Woolworths for no longer stocking Australia Day merchandise.
This backlash comes after a Woolworth store in Teneriffe was found vandalised with “5 days 26 Jan Aussie Oi Oi Woolies fuck u” spray painted on its exterior, as reported by the Guardian.
The perpetrator also used a flare to set off the fire alarm, which resulted in the evacuation of nearby residents, according to a Queensland Police spokesperson.
Some Teneriffe residents have spoken out and connected Dutton’s comments to this incident. “You’ve got a politician grandstanding … And then, funnily enough, Woolworths gets vandalised.”, said a resident to The Guardian.
Residents of Teneriffe have expressed feeling unsafe in their own community and expect an apology from Peter Dutton for (at the very least) unintentionally provoking this incident.
Why should we care?
Freedom of expression is central to a democratic society, but expressing one’s rights should not come at the expense of the rights of others, their safety, or the inflicting of property damage. This should apply to all sides of politics.
Young people (most of our readers) are conscious of the social discourses in our society, and some are experimenting with different ways to voice their opinions.
Exercising consumer choice by boycotting products and services is one way, and expressing their views in a public forum or being involved in unionism is another. Change won’t happen until we engage, but we should do so without harming others.
The other important aspect is to recognise that positions of power come with added responsibility. Dutton may not have intended such an incident to occur, but the leadership burden includes taking responsibility when his comments unexpectedly inspire acts of civil unrest.
On the incident, UQ Union’s President, Angus McRae, commented: “It’s an excellent example of how all actions have consequences, and while political polarisation might offer short-term electoral gain, it will inevitably lead to a long-term loss for society. We should be glad that no one was injured and hope for constructive debate to take the place of inflammatory soundbites.”
In today’s society, being headstrong isn’t the only way to show strength in leadership; showing compassion and taking personal responsibility for your actions can also be seen as attributes of strength. As such, it is not a sign of weakness if the Leader of the Opposition made a statement discouraging such behaviour and apologised to the Teneriffe residents.