Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has denounced the rise of political correctness within the business community and warned that it is adopting the agenda of radical activists while remaining largely silent in debates over the economy and industrial relations.
The Australian newspaper reports, the Minister told a legal conference on Saturday, “They are participating in social and political debates that have absolutely nothing to do with their stated purpose.”
The Conservative Party has been fighting political correctness since its inception, with leader and senator Cory Bernardi's track record extending even further back. The Conservative policy is the outright rejection of the creeping identity politics and political correctness which have hamstrung free and open debate in Australian society.
“These companies are using company funds and brand equity to pursue pet political and social causes,” Mr Dutton said, “Some businesses are now acting in the interests of special-interest activist groups.“The interests of shareholders are becoming secondary considerations, if they are being considered at all.”
His remarks, at a conference of the Samuel Griffith Society in Brisbane, coincide with disquiet in the business community over pressure from activists and the Australian Securities Exchange to take up 'social' policies that go beyond the interests of their shareholders.
The ASX is considering a proposed update of its corporate governance principles that urges companies to adopt employment polices that take account of gender identity and the cultural background of employees while avoiding “aggressive tax minimisation” and acting in a “socially responsible manner”.
Mr Dutton singled out Qantas for campaigning in favour of same-sex marriage and Queensland University of Technology, which had “buckled under pressure from protest groups and agreed to divest from fossil fuels”.
He said his concern about Qantas was not aimed at stifling free speech and he believed there was nothing wrong with Qantas chief Alan Joyce expressing his personal opinion about same-sex marriage.
“Regardless of your view on that topic, this was a multi-million-dollar publicly listed company throwing its weight behind one side of a debate it had no business getting into,” Mr Dutton said.
Mr Joyce and other business leaders were engaging in “ideological indulgence” when they used company funds for social activism.
Activist shareholders and investment funds were targeting companies, including Woolworths, the Commonwealth Bank and BHP Billiton, with the goal of pressuring these companies into policy changes on issues such as climate change or in some cases to force the resignations of board members, he said.
Organisations such as GetUp! were targeting businesses involved in border protection and major banks had established ethics committees that were turning away companies engaged in lawful, profitable activities.
He said it was even more concerning that companies were being subjected to retaliation when they chose not to take sides in particular debates over social policy.
“When Australian businesses are routinely bullied into supporting ideological positions, we have a big problem,” Mr Dutton said.
Conservative Party leader Cory Bernardi has told Sydney radio station 2GB the insidious spread of political correctness is a concerted effort by the left wing to mould society to its ends.
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