Immigration Minister Peter Dutton says the Turnbull government “won’t be bullied” by chief executives who have campaigned in favour of same-sex marriage, lashing the country’s business leaders for a third day in a row.
Mr Dutton also ramped up his response to the social media campaign against Coopers brewery, claiming some companies were being “extorted” and “blackmailed” into backing marriage equality.
In his most aggressive statements on the issue yet, he said chief executives such as Alan Joyce at Qantas should “stick to their knitting” rather than using the company’s brand to advocate for political causes.
“It is unacceptable that people would use companies and shareholders money of publicly listed companies to throw their weight around,” Mr Dutton said on Saturday.
“If Alan Joyce and any other CEO wants to campaign on this or any other issue in their own time and on their own dime, good luck to them,” he told Queensland’s Liberal National Party state council meeting in Cairns.
“Don’t use an iconic brand and the might of a multibillion dollar business on issues best left to the judgement of individuals and elected decision-makers,” he said.
Mr Dutton said chief executives who wanted to campaign on social issues should become politicians.
“If you want to run for politics, run at the next election and have your say,” he said. “We don’t want multibillion dollar companies with all their resources weighing into social debates. That’s my call.”
The aggressive remarks stem from a letter to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull signed by 20 of ‘s most powerful chief executives calling on him to legislate for marriage equality in the near future.
But Mr Dutton, a senior member of the Liberal Party’s conservative wing seen by some as a future party leader, warned the Prime Minister against ditching the plebiscite and embracing a free vote.
“The party went to an election with a policy,” he said at a press conference on Saturday. “We’re not going to deviate from that position. We aren’t going to be bullied into action or non-action by CEOs or anyone else.”
Mr Joyce was travelling on Saturday afternoon but in a statement Qantas defended its participation in the campaign and vowed to continue to “speak up” on issues it deemed important.
“Qantas engages on a number of social issues, from Indigenous reconciliation to gender diversity and marriage equality,” a spokesman said.
“We do so because we believe these issues are about the fundamental n value of fairness and we’re the national carrier.”
Mr Dutton also took aim at a social media campaign against the Coopers over a Bible Society video that featured the brewer’s beer during a debate on marriage equality between Liberal MPs Tim Wilson and Andrew Hastie.
He asserted that some firms were being bullied, extorted and blackmailed into supporting same-sex marriage because they were worried about being targeted by activists on social media.
“Some companies are morally coerced into supporting campaigns in fear of being extorted by an online social media push to boycott their product and It is simply unconscionable,” he said.
“This is a battle for common sense and for freedom of speech, make no mistake about it. It is part of a culture war that is raging in our country at this very day.
“We cannot accept this politically correct notion that somehow it is OK for online bullying and for online extortion of companies, blackmailing them into submission.”
Mr Turnbull on Friday reiterated the government’s long-held position of holding a plebiscite on marriage equality.
“We have a commitment on a plebiscite which we took to the election so that’s our policy,” he said.