Federal government minister Peter Dutton has been accused of trying to curb free speech after criticising plans by several Australian CEOs to pressure Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to move on marriage equality.
On Thursday The Australian reported that 20 CEOs were preparing a joint letter to send to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull calling on him to get marriage equality done “in the near term”.
The business leaders from banks, legal teams, Telstra, Optus, Qantas, Apple, Amex, Holden, accountancy firms and sporting bodies reportedly wrote: “Enabling loving, committed couples to be married, regardless of their sexual orientation, will contribute to a stronger economy and a more inclusive Australia.”
Mr Dutton said the CEOs involved shouldn’t “shove their politically-correct views down our throats” and instead focus on growing their businesses and improving customer service.
“Leave it up to the politicians, the leaders, to talkback hosts such as yourself, to normal people that can have those discussions without the millions of dollars thrown behind campaigns,” he told radio station 2GB on Thursday.
“It’s high time these people pull back from these moralistic stances. We’d be a better society without them.”
But marriage equality campaigner for group just.equal Ivan Hinton-Teoh welcomed the CEOs’ plans and accused Mr Dutton of trying to curb free speech.
“All Australians should be free to voice their views and lobby politicians, including those business leaders who support marriage equality,” he said.
He said many CEOs recognise the importance of equality to both their employees and customers and they have a right to represent that to lawmakers.
“It’s not appropriate for a Government minister to attempt to shut down views he doesn’t agree with,” he said.
“In the absence of political movement on marriage equality it’s only right that community members who find themselves in positions of power and influence use it to raise the issue, standing with the majority of Australians who wish the reform to pass.”
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull responded to the business leaders’ letter by reiterating the government’s “well-known” marriage equality policy – to have “a plebiscite on the issue first.”
On its website, Australian Marriage Equality lists hundreds of national and international companies who have pledged their support for marriage equality.
Earlier this week, South Australian brewery Coopers Beer apologised following a national furore after their product was featured in a Bible Society of Australia video featuring two federal politicians discussing their differing views on marriage equality.