In September 2017, during the time of the postal plebiscite on same-sex marriage (SSM), I wrote a blog for Quadrant on corporate support for the proposal. Unsurprisingly, Alan Joyce figured prominently. My theme: Corporate entities are artifacts. They have no mind of their own. Yet Joyce reportedly said, “I think it is very important for our employees, customers and our shareholders, and that is why Qantas is a supporter of marriage equality.” Qantas, you see, not Joyce personally.
At the time Joyce had responsibility to run an airline. Simply put, to transport people from one point to another in a timely and safe manner. No part of the airline’s business model encompassed the sexual goings-on of consenting adults. So where in the world did Joyce get authority to speak on such matters on behalf of the artefact; in this case, Qantas?
The artifact can’t speak for itself. To wit, Pauline Hanson’s fish and chip shop couldn’t at the time raise objections to women wearing burkas in Parliament House. And to the credit of Ms Hanson, she never claimed that it did. Seem ridiculous to imagine a fish and chip shop having a view? It’s instructive. Because, in fact, it’s no more ridiculous than Qantas having a view. Don’t let size fool you.
Up to date and true to form, Joyce, ventriloquist extraordinaire, had Qantas supporting the Voice. Qantas is not alone. According to Wikipedia, numbers of local councils, sporting bodies and clubs, churches and religious organisations, and public companies, have from somewhere found a voice and expressed their support for the Yes-case. I don’t believe that any of the movers and shakers behind these bodies have canvassed their ratepayers, or members, or congregants, or shareholders. But even if they had, they would need 100 percent support. That is simply because each of these bodies is operating outside of its remit.
People don’t pay rates to authorise their council to be party to the social engineering fad of the day or to have a view on a constitutional change remote from the business of councils; which, let’s recall, is to maintain roads, parks, local amenities and collect garbage. Equally, people who join sporting clubs are interested in participating in, or supporting, their sporting code or simply socialising. People attending church are interested in worshiping God; and, I can attest, have quite different views on the topics of the day. Those buying shares are interested in the financial performance of the companies in question and in obtaining dividends. Speaking up, let alone gifting funds, to support this or that unrelated social-cum-political cause is not any part of the deal.
Those in leadership positions don’t have carte blanche to do whatever they fancy in the name of the body they represent. Unfortunately, that’s not generally appreciated in today’s cockeyed world. For instance, bank boards have decided not to finance hydrocarbon projects. Apparently, they have become, without reference to their shareholders, guardians of planet Earth. Super heroes. And you thought that banks just accepted deposits, lent money and provided lousy service.