'TIDY UP YOUR OWN BACK YARD': Dutton's attack on CEOs calling for marriage equality

Immigration minister Peter Dutton. Photo: Getty Images.

The Turnbull government is resisting a renewed plea from some of Australia’s most senior executives to legislate same-sex marriage.

Twenty of the country’s most senior CEOs — including the Ian Narev of the Commonwealth Bank, Brian Hartzer of Westpac, Cindy Hook of Deloitte, and Andy Penn of Telstra — signed a letter calling for the federal government to take action on marriage equality.

Most of the business leaders who signed the letter have been long-standing supporters of marriage equality, although the intervention is an attempt to put the issue back on the political agenda. The Turnbull government’s proposal to hold a nationwide plebiscite that would precede changes to the Marriage Act by the parliament was defeated in the Senate last November.

Labor opposes a plebiscite on the grounds that a long-running national debate on rights might be harmful to the welfare of the gay community. Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull remains committed to the plebiscite route.

Immigration minister Peter Dutton said the letter, co-ordinated by the Equality Campaign, was “bizarre” and described it as “politically correct nonsense”.

In an extraordinary attack, Dutton said on 2GB radio: “If people want to enter politics, then do that, but don’t do it from the office overlooking the harbour on multi-million dollar fees each year. I just think its high time these people pulled back from these moralistic stances and we’d be a better society without them.”

He singled out Telstra’s Penn for criticism, saying: “Instead of getting caught up and spending your investors’ money … on all these political causes, what about tidying up your own backyard first and providing a proper standard of care and service to your customers?”

The business leaders say in the letter:

We ask the Australian Parliament to deliver civil marriage equality for every Australian so that our nation can move forward as a more inclusive place to live, work, and play.

The time has come to resolve this important reform. Two-thirds of Australians support marriage equality, a majority of both houses of parliament support marriage equality, and over 1,000 businesses have signed a letter of support for marriage equality. We urge you to legislate for marriage equality so the Government can get on with its core economic agenda.

Other CEOs and leaders who signed the letter include:

  • Shayne Elliott of ANZ
  • Geoff Culbert of GE
  • David Gallop of the FFA
  • Tracey Fellows of the REA Group
  • Luke Sayers of PWC
  • Peter Tonagh of Foxtel
  • Kerry Purcell of IBM
  • Alan Joyce of Qantas
  • Rachel Stocks of AMEX
  • Richard Goyder of Wesfarmers

Relations between the business community and the Turnbull government have not been smooth in recent months. The CEOs of the major banks have a regular appointment for questioning by a parliamentary committee, and the business community more broadly has been frustrated by the slow progress on economic reform.

The CEOs said they were signing the letter in a personal capacity. You can see some of the signatures below:

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