Mr President, thank you very much. Ladies and Gentlemen again thank you for having me along today.
I wanted to spend just a little bit of time this morning talking about an issue which I think is of incredible national importance and that is the way in which the public debate takes place on important social and economic issues and in particular the involvement of corporate players in that conversation, and at the moment, the conversation around the country is in relation to gay marriage.
Now I've been very clear about my position on the topic, I don't support a change in relation to the current definition of marriage, but I respect very much the fact that other people have an opposing view.
But what I believe very strongly in, is the ability to express your view for or against on this debate, or any other, in a way that is fair, in a way that allows people to express heartfelt views and ultimately allows for the public to make up their own mind.
Now there have been recent comments from CEOs who have signed a letter, an open letter to the Prime Minister.
The position of our party was made very clear at the last election, that is that we would go to a plebiscite, we would ask the Australian people what their position would be and the issue would be dealt with subsequent to that.
I think it's very difficult to conduct debates in this country when we have some people who are engaging in debates with the advantage of a corporate structure.
Now tens of thousands of customers and staff, who fly with a company like Qantas for example, would have strong views on an issue like gay marriage – both for and against.
That is what makes the decision of a CEO or board to spend shareholders money, not in pursuit of a greater return on capital or a greater service for customers, but on a personal agenda, particularly galling.
And the issue here is not, as I say, gay marriage; it is activism with another's money – and where does it stop.
Now Qantas is an iconic Australian brand. All of us have pride in seeing the success of the company, both domestically and internationally, and Alan Joyce is an exceptional CEO. I know Alan Joyce, he is exceptional both professionally and personally and if Alan Joyce or 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.
Alan Joyce, the individual, is perfectly entitled to campaign for, and spend his hard earned money on, any issue he sees fit, but don't do it in the official capacity and with shareholders' money. And certainly don't use an iconic brand and the might of a multi-billion dollar business on issues best left to the judgement of individuals and elected decision makers.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the other side of this coin is the reality that 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.
This is a battle for commonsense and freedom of speech, make no mistake about it.
It is part of a culture war that is raging in our country this very day and this is a battle on behalf of the vast majority right across the country including in this great state who are bewildered this conduct is ramping up.
You see it doesn't matter whether you are for or against a particular issue, in fact it doesn't matter the issue itself, you argue your corner and I can argue mine. But the modern phenomena is to target, generally through an online assault, one side of the argument to beat people into submission and I for one, and I think I speak for many Australians, will not tolerate such a push.
The difficultly is that this is a particular issue for our side of politics because the Labor Party is immersed in this very campaign themselves.
Bill Shorten was a founding member of GetUp! and the CMFEU donated over a million dollars to GetUp!, by way of one example, of one of these organisations in recent times. We also know that the CMFEU donated ten million dollars in recent years to the Australian Labor Party.
The union movement, through industry funds and through other organisations, are providing support to these campaigns. That is a fact and it needs to be called out and we need to stand up and allow a debate to be conducted in good conscience and allow people to express their deeply held views.
Now as I say, the issue is not even about gay marriage, it is about the right in our country to be heard, to express your voice and to do it in a way that the politically correct don't then smother that voice.
We can't allow for individuals to be trumped by multi-billion dollar companies.
If people want to express a view in their personal capacity I don't care what walk of life they come from, I don't care their background or their current position. We live in a country where they can contribute to debate and this is an issue that is only just started because GetUp! and other organisations as they expressed in the last campaign are prepared to target people on our side of politics, in seats where they don't agree with the views of that individual, or the views of our party as a whole.
And on these issues the policy of the party is well known and we are not going to be bullied by people in positions of power, or otherwise, to change our position or to move away from stances that we've taken. That is the very clear position of the party and I wanted to make that clear as part of my speech today.