Australian business defends gay stance
Corporate leaders have defended their right to push for same-sex marriage after calls from immigration minister Peter Dutton for them to “stick to their knitting” and stay out of the debate.—
Australian business leaders yesterday defended their right to campaign for same-sex marriage following calls by two government ministers for them to keep out of the debate, which risks dividing the ruling coalition.
Peter Dutton, immigration minister, said at the weekend that business leaders should “stick to their knitting” and focus on shareholder returns, rather than use their companies to drive their own agendas.
He also criticised Alan Joyce ,the gay chief executive of Australian airline Qantas, for using his position to campaign for same-sex marriage.
“Certainly don’t use an iconic brand and the might of a multibillion-dollar business on issues best left to the judgment of . . . elected decision makers,” Mr Dutton said in a speech to party colleagues.
Australia is one of the last developed nations in the English-speaking world that has not legalised same-sex marriage, following changes to the law in Ireland and the US in 2015. Polls show a majority of the public and MPs support a change in the law but the issue has become embroiled in party politics and threatens to split the Liberal-National coalition, which has moderate and conservative fact ions.
Qantas defended Mr Joyce’s support for same-sex marriage following the attack by Mr Dutt on, saying the Australian flag carrier would continue to speak out on social issues from marriage equality to indigenous recognition.
“We do so because we believe these issues are about the fundamental Australian value of fairness and we’re the national carrier ,” the airline said.
Tim Reed, chief executive of MYOB, an Australian-based business software company, said the campaign for marriage equality was clearly supported by his workforce.
“You need to think about the broader community in every decision you make ,” he told local radio.
Two senior Liberal party ministers rejected Mr Dutton’s comments, noting that free speech should be protected.
“People are free to take part in public debates and this is an issue that I’m sure will be the subject of public debate for sometime ,” said Julie Bishop, Australia’ s foreign minister.
The controversy has erupted as political and civil society campaigners in favour of marriage equality press the government of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to drop its plan to hold a plebiscite on the issue, which has stalled in parliament, and instead legislate for reform soon.
The leaders of 30 of Australia’s biggest companies, including Qantas, Commonwealth Bank and Telstra, have signed an open letter urging the government to act in the near term to legalise gay marriage —are form that would be“good for customers, employees and Australia ”.
“It is very clear that the business case for supporting civil marriage equality is compelling. Enabling loving, committed couples to be married, regardless of their sexual orientation, will contribute to a stronger economy and a more inclusive Australia ,” the letter says.
Mr Turnbull is a strong advocate of gay marriage. But, under pressure from rightwing MPs in the coalition, he agreed to support holding a plebiscite on same-sex marriage rather than a free vote of MPs to change the law. However, the proposal to hold a plebiscite was defeated in parliament, which has left the proposed reform stalled.
Alan Joyce, Qantas chief, has campaigned for same-sex marriage