With Qantas rightly drawing plenty of attention for its gouging, profiteering, anti-competitive conduct and mysterious ability to get governments to act against the public interest, the question arises as to whether the airline, once a national icon, is now the company most despised by Australians. It’s certainly the most complained-about, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). But does that make it, pound-for-pound, the most hated?
It’s time to resolve the issue — which is Australia’s most hated company? We’ve prepared a form guide to help you decide which corporation infuriates you the most.
Alan Joyce’s airline starts as a strong favourite in a crowded field. Long hated by its own workers, the airline spread the hate in the aftermath of the pandemic by running a chaotic non-service, routinely losing baggage, keeping customers’ money, blaming them for delays, and blatantly profiteering.
The fossil fuel giants
Perhaps Qantas’ only competitors in terms of being able to dictate policy to politicians, the big climate criminal companies — Woodside, Santos and Origin — are material contributors to global heating and have made massive profits from pushing up the price of gas for Australian businesses and consumers. Woodside and Santos are also long-term tax avoiders that so badly rorted the Petroleum Resource Rent Tax that the current government was forced to crack down and… very politely ask them if they would like to pay a little more tax, please.
Coles and Woolies
At a time when ordinary households are doing it tough under the hammer of higher mortgage costs and inflation, the supermarket duopoly has celebrated big profits fueled by inflating prices, with Woolworths delivering a dividend to shareholders that rose much higher than the CPI. Both are admitted wage thieves, with the Fresh Food People ripping off its own staff to the tune of over $400 million. Bonus points to Coles for complaining about a rise in shoplifting after it cut staff, installed DIY checkouts and jacked up prices.
The big banks
Hardy perennials in the corporate hate contest, the big four banks continue to enjoy healthy profits courtesy of interest rate hikes and extensive direct and indirect support from the government. Their withdrawal from non-bank financial services in the wake of the Hayne royal commission, however, has removed a huge area of complaints, grief and resentment that resulted in nearly $5 billion in compensation to aggrieved customers. Meantime ANZ is still engaged in the traditional corporate pastime of trying to buy a competitor, something the ACCC is trying to stop in what will be a major test of our generally piss-weak competition laws.
The big 3.5 audit firms
In previous years, a corporate hate list would only have included the likes of PwC, KPMG, Deloitte and EY for the audit cognoscenti and readers of exposés such as The Bean Counters. Courtesy of PwC’s leaking of confidential tax information and its subsequent cover-up, however, the arrogant, hopelessly conflicted and wildly overpaid partners of the Australian arms of the four major audit and consulting firms are now firmly in the public eye — especially when it comes to collecting billions from governments for pointless management-speak and PowerPoint statements of the obvious. With PwC flogging off its consulting arm for a dollar in the hope of saving it, and a litany of revelations about the misconduct of the other three firms, look out Qantas, there’s a new figure of hate in town.
Once a shoo-in for this list, Telstra has quietly dropped down the corporate hate list recently. But the Optus hack has given 10 million Australians reason once again to rage at companies that handle — and evidently fail to secure properly — some of our most personal data. Bonus points for Optus invoking the old cliché of “legal professional privilege” to hide an investigation of the hack.
Now decidedly long in the tooth, Harvey Norman would once have been an unbackable favourite. In truth, however, it was never really Harvey Norman — essentially a real estate company propped up by franchisees — that annoyed people, but the wretched Gerry Harvey, who has always had an offensive opinion about pretty much everything — from why homeless people shouldn’t be given charity to dismissing COVID as nothing to be afraid of to saying we need a Chinese-style dictatorship in Australia to demanding people work for free. Given it’s been at least five minutes since Harvey opened his big mouth and vomited out, say, another call for journalists to be “hung” (sic), the old stager might struggle this time around.
Of course, it’s not just domestic companies vying for the title. Like the Melbourne Cup, which sees some of the world’s best racehorses travel to Melbourne to compete against the local talent, we also need a form guide for the out-of-towners.
It’s understandable that companies attract our ire because of their determination to make money no matter what damage they do to their customers. But News Corp goes beyond mere profiteering to actively working to undermine democracy, spread misinformation and propaganda, and distort public debate in the interests of encouraging division, inciting racial grievance and white victimhood, and punching downward. Plenty of companies are bad, and many hated. Few are actually evil. But News Corp is one.
Chevron, Shell and BP
The foreign contingent of the fossil fuel industry may lack the blithe ability of the locals to interfere in public policy, but they’re serial tax dodgers (Shell actually boasted two years ago it would never pay tax on its biggest offshore gas project) and play an even bigger role globally in causing the global heating crisis.
Elon Musk. Enough said. It takes real talent to take the closest thing to a digital town square and turn it into a burning rubbish dump populated by bitcoin scammers, gibbering cretins with handles like @IloveAdolf77840, and some of the world’s most malignant personalities. Musk’s greatest achievement of all — making Mark Zuckerberg look comparatively OK.
Sadly, unlike the Melbourne Cup, this race won’t end with any of these thoroughbreds being butchered trackside.
Which company do you dislike the most? Have you got one that’s not on our form guide? Send your answers, and why they get your goat so much, to email@example.com. Please include your full name to be considered for publication. We reserve the right to edit for length and clarity.