Back same-sex marriage, Qantas boss urges Australia firms

Sydney (AFP) –


Corporate Australia should speak out in support of same-sex marriage, Qantas chief Alan Joyce said Friday as he pledged to donate a "significant amount" of money to boosting the 'Yes' campaign in an upcoming national vote.

Campaigners against the non-binding postal vote finalised by Canberra this month have become more vociferous, with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull pleading for respectful debate amid homophobic slurs expressed by opponents.

Irish-born Joyce, who is openly gay and a vocal supporter of equal rights, had already thrown Qantas' backing behind the "yes" vote and on Friday called on other companies to join the Australian carrier.

"I think corporate Australia, if it is to fix the reputation that it has out there, needs to be vocal on social issues," Joyce said at a press conference on Qantas' annual profit results in Sydney.

"That's what good businesses do. They are part of society, they help mould societal changes."

He added: "I personally will be donating money to the (yes) campaign, a significant amount, because I am passionate about it."

The Qantas boss in May had a pie smashed into his face by a devout Christian protesting against gay marriage, but said then that he would continue to speak up on marriage equality despite the incident.

Joyce, an Australian citizen, slammed the political inertia.

"I am very proud of this amazing meritocracy -- where else in the world would an openly gay Irishman become the CEO of one of the biggest brands, if not the most iconic brand," he said.

"Unfortunately, I think due to leadership in the past and today, we've fallen behind on progressive issues."

While polls have indicated there is popular support in Australia for marriage equality, the issue has dragged on for more than a decade amid political wrangling.

The prime minister is a supporter of same-sex rights, but heads a conservative coalition that includes opponents of marriage equality and has faced pressure to hold a postal ballot instead of a parliamentary vote.

Turnbull has defended the legitimacy of a voluntary postal vote, which was chosen after his party's 2016 election pledge to hold a compulsory plebiscite was twice rejected by parliament.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics will begin sending out ballots on September 12 and voting will close on November 7, with the result known later that month.