CEO’s staff email backs gay mar­riage

The Australian - - FRONT PAGE - SAM BUCK­ING­HAM-JONES

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.

Hartzer

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