Aaron Schachter: I'm Aaron Schachter, this is The World. McDonald's is a global fast food giant with 33,000 restaurants in 118 countries, but folks in the town of Tecoma, Australia are dead set against a new franchise there. They formed a group called Burger Off to protest against it, but the group failed to stop construction from starting this year, so it decided to take its protest all the way to Chicago to McDonald's headquarters. Burger Off representative Gary Muratore was there today to deliver a petition.
Gary Muratore: When we handed the petition of 95,000 names across today it was like we were handing them a hot potato. They had a guy there from corporate responsibility, he wouldn't touch it. He handed it off to a security guard who nearly got a hernia carrying it; it's something like 7,000 pages.
Schachter: You know, Australians are known as a pretty happy go luck, live and let live sort of folk. What is your main beef, if you'll pardon the pun, with McDonald's?
Muratore: Well, I guess it's a case of we don't like bullies in Australia. When it was proposed that this was gonna happen to our community, the council became contentious and they asked for people to put submissions in. I think the council expected to maybe get 20 or 30 submissions. They got 1,170. And the council did the right thing. They listened and they voted it down 9-0. McDonald's went ahead to a regional planning tribunal and had it turned over. They spent about a million dollars on this.
Schachter: What's wrong with McDonald's?
Muratore: Well, there's nothing wrong with McDonald's per se. There's one just down the road. It's less than three miles. You can basically get there in a car in seven minutes. The franchisee that runs that has been up and told us that he's happy to support the people because you know, he's got a store and he wants to run it. And the protest is hurting his store. And we said, you know, where your store is is an appropriate location. Tecoma is not an appropriate location. This will be the closest store to a national park anywhere in Australia. It's right opposite a preschool, it's right opposite an elementary school. It's too close to elderly residents who are concerned about crime because the strip of shops at the moment closes at 8PM every night. McDonald's want to run this 24/7 and it's five or six times bigger than the nearest shop in the strip. So yeah, they want to come in and be large and in charge, and we won't let them.
Schachter: Gary, I wonder how big a town Tecoma is.
Muratore: It's just under 2,000 people.
Schachter: Ah, so it's a really teeny, tiny place.
Muratore: Yeah, it's a little town. That's what I say, this doesn't make sense to put a McDonald's there. They keep on saying it's for the betterment of the community, but we know that they're going after the tourist dollar because the forest people come up there to do forest walks to look at lyrebirds, kookaburras, platypuses in the local creek, so people come up here not to see a homogenous fast food chain, they come up for the forest.
Schachter: You have 2,000 people in Tecoma and 95,000 signatures, is that right? Where do those come from?
Muratore: That's right, they're all around Australia. People have seen this as a David versus Goliath battle. We've been putting out the media message that if it happens in our town, it could happen in your town. And what's to stop them from doing it somewhere up on the Great Barrier Reef, or the pristine rain forests…what's to stop them from doing it at Ayers Rock. And I say to the American audience, what would happen if they did it at Mount Rushmore? There would be an outcry.
Schachter: Gary Muratore is a representative for the group Burger Off, a group of Australians protesting today in Chicago against McDonald's moving into their town, Tecoma, Australia. Gary, thank you so much.
Schachter: Gotta love that accent. We asked McDonald's for a response and got a statement that says the company respects the protestors' right to peacefully express their views. It adds, "McDonald's Australia has followed due process every step of the way to build a family restaurant on a highway that already houses a number of food and service outlets; the only legal action that has been brought to protect those with opposing views from putting themselves and others in danger through illegal and dangerous actions." You can read the whole statement at theworld.org.