Qantas boss Alan Joyce says the marriage plebiscite is a 'bizarre' and 'unnecessary' handball by politicians

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce. Photo: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has come out swinging against the Turnbull government’s plans for a February 11 vote on marriage equality in an opinion piece for the Guardian Australia today.

With Labor set to block the legislation in the Senate and a number of marriage equality lobby groups coming out against the plebiscite after prime minister Malcolm Turnbull tabled the proposal in parliament yesterday, the airline boss, who’s been with his partner, Shane Lloyd, for 16 years, argued that after parliament dealt with complex social issues such as repealing the White Australia Policy and gun control on its own, “that great history makes it all the more bizarre that we’re on the brink of handballing the next big social change – marriage equality – to an expensive and unnecessary plebiscite”.

Joyce saw two problems with the plebiscite proposal – the short-term damage from an “open season” on LGBT people; and the message holding a plebiscite sends on the country’s ability to make important decisions.

The Qantas CEO, who endured his own sustained bout of heavy criticism as he sought to ultimately turn around the airline’s fortunes wrote:

This isn’t about giving people time and space for a national debate. Australians have been talking about marriage equality seriously since the early 2000s and we already have the forums for people to express their views on both sides, including the media and the parliament itself. The issue is with using taxpayer funds in a way that could give a platform to the worst kind of homophobic rhetoric – without even binding parliament to the result.

The plebiscite undercuts parliament’s authority and sets a “terrible precedent” when the nation is confronted with other big changes, Joyce argues, saying:

Parliament is where we have to agree on reforms in tax, education, environment, industrial relations and immigration policy, as well as debating foreign affairs and the economy. It’s also where we’ve got to come to grips with the social changes that are taking place in Australia just like they are in every other country.

Same-sex marriage isn’t a niche issue. It’s about basic rights and equality – the “fair go” that’s such a fundamental Australian value.

You can read the rest of his Guardian Australia opinion piece here.

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