CEO’s staff email backs gay marriage
An email from Westpac chief executive Brian Hartzer backing same-sex marriage has emerged days after the bank was embroiled in controversy over an internal message that erroneously claimed a Yes vote would prevent 3000 suicides a year.
While the bank has insisted it is not pressuring its staff into a position, Mr Hartzer’s 1000word email to the bank’s 30,000 staff last month explained “Why I’ll be voting yes’’ in the postal plebiscite for same-sex marriage. In the email, he said he wanted to share the “logical argument”.
An email from Westpac chief executive Brian Hartzer backing same-sex marriage has emerged days after the bank was embroiled in controversy in which an internal message erroneously claimed a Yes vote would prevent 3000 suicides a year.
While the bank has insisted it is not pressuring its staff into a position, Mr Hartzer’s 1000-word email to the bank’s 30,000 staff last month explained “Why I’ll be voting yes’’ in the postal plebiscite for same-sex marriage.
In the September 11 email, Mr Hartzer said he was “not telling our people how to vote” but wanted to share the “logical argument” as he sees it.
The email is understood to be part of a broader decision in major banks to launch internal campaigns for the Yes vote, and tells the story of Mr Hartzer’s wedding to his wife Georgy in Britain five years ago.
Last week the bank was forced to backtrack and admit it was a “mistake” to send emails to as many as 10,000 employees saying it was a “no brainer” to vote Yes and that it would prevent thousands of suicides.
Federal Immigration Minister Peter Dutton then said corporations should “stick to your knitting”.
“I don’t want sporting organisations or groups involved in delivering banking services telling us how to live our lives,’’ Mr Dutton said. Queensland Nationals senator Matt Canavan said it was an attempt to “blackmail” younger employees.
Mr Hartzer, in his pro samesex marriage email, said he and his wife found a church they liked in rural England when they had decided to wed, but the Church of England priest explained that because they weren’t members, he could not preside over their marriage.
Instead, the priest explained, they could have a local council official preside over an official marriage, and he would later conduct an unofficial service for fam- ily and friends at the church.
“What this experience taught me is this: legally, marriage is a civic ceremony — not a religious one,” he said.
“A decision to recognise samesex marriage does not impose any obligation for any church to conduct a religious ceremony for a same-sex union ... to suggest otherwise is a furphy. But equally, no religion has the right to impose their moral judgments about civic society on the decisions of the state.
“Now I know that there are people who will say that it is not appropriate for companies such as Westpac to advocate on this issue.
“And I want to be clear that while Westpac is on the record as supporting marriage equality, we are not telling our people how to vote — we are simply encouraging you to exercise your democratic rights to vote, whichever way you feel is right.”
Only days ago staff at the Commonwealth Bank received flyers from the company’s internal LGBTI community group, Unity, encouraging them to support same-sex marriage.
The two banks are on a list of major companies such as KPMG, Mars Australia, McDonald’s, National Australia Bank, Qantas and Telstra, which have signed an open letter of support for samesex marriage. The postal survey closes on November 7, and survey results will be published on November 15 on the Australian Bureau of Statistics website.