WOOLWORTHS should apologise to war veterans and their families for using the Anzac name for commercial gain, says Queensland LNP MP Bruce Scott.
Woolworths launched a new campaign “Fresh in our Memories” to coincide with the upcoming Anzac day celebrations - but was forced to remove the website late yesterday after a storm of controversy erupted on social media.
Veteran Affairs Minister Michael Ronaldson weighed into the debate today saying he asked the company to remove the website and image which used the word Anzac alongside images of soldiers, without his formal permission.
He said Under the Protection of Word Anzac Act 1920, permission for the use of the word ‘Anzac’ in any such material must be granted by the Australian government.
“The Australian community quite rightly expects that the word ‘Anzac’ is not trivialised or used inappropriately and as Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, I am responsible for ensuring that any use of the word ‘Anzac’ does not provide commercial benefit to an organisation,” he said.
“In this instance, permission was not sought by the campaign proponents, nor would it have been approved.
“Immediately upon having this campaign brought to my attention, I contacted Woolworths and asked them to end it.
“While I acknowledge that Woolworths moved quickly to address the situation, I hope this is a reminder to others that the regulations are in place for good reason and that they will be rigorously enforced.”
Mr Scott said he was a former Veteran Affairs Minister and also had strong views on the issue.
He said he wanted Woolworths to not only withdraw the website and campaign but also apologise to Australian veterans and their families, and also present day soldiers who continue to serve under the Anzac spirit.
“In my mind and in the mind of most Australians using the Anzac name in a commercial campaign would be seen as offensive and therefore the company should apologise to the Australian people and war veterans and their families,” he said.
“Even today’s troops going into battle, serving their country, do so with the Anzac spirit at the forefront of their minds.
“Since 1920 the word Anzac has been protected by federal legislation from being used for commercial benefits, such was the request of the returned service men and women of the day.
“As a major food retailer Woolworths should not only withdraw the campaign but also apologise to members of the armed services and their families especially those who have been lost or lost family members, serving the nation in the spirit of bravery, enshrined by the Anzacs.”
Woolworths issued a statement yesterday saying, “We regret that our branding on the picture generator has caused offence, this was clearly never our intention”.
“Like many heritage Australian companies, we were marking our respect for Anzac and our veterans.
“We continue to be proud supporters of the RSL and Camp Gallipoli in this important year and look forward to working with them into the future.”
Social media commentators also branded the Woolworths initiative insensitive and disrespectful.
On Twitter, Mike Carlton said, “Oh, to be a fly on the wall at the Woolworths top management meeting as the blame flies this morning”.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten said Woolworths were ill advised to have any impression of capitalising upon Anzac Day for commercial reasons.
“The Minister will no doubt get to the bottom of the matter, but I do understand that they’ve now backed off and I think that is appropriate,” he said.
“This is the Centenary of Anzac (and) it is an important day every year.
“And at the hundred year anniversary where there’s such great attention in terms of the sacrifice of our first Anzacs and the formation, I think, reasonable of a significant part of the Australian identity, I certainly wouldn’t want to see any commercial interests exploiting Anzac for their own purposes.”