The CEOs of Qantas and Virgin Australia say they will not be silent on social issues, including the environment, after the Morrison Government called on businesses to spend more time speaking out on economic issues.
Speaking at the National Press Club on Wednesday during a rare joint industry call from the two airlines for the government to impose arbitration processes on “airport monopolies”, Alan Joyce maintained supporting marriage equality was not just “morally right” but also in Qantas’ business interests.
“We know our employees want companies to stand up for these big issues. Generation Y and Z are saying … they want to work for a company that has a social conscience, so to get talent you need to be out there on social issues,” he said.
“We know that environmental issues are a big issue worldwide – there are people that are not travelling in Europe because of ‘flight shaming’, so we need to address it.”
Joyce warns against “throwing the baby out with the bathwater“ when it comes to sustainability.
Virgin Australia CEO Paul Scurrah, who appeared alongside Joyce, said the Virgin brand had been “very strong” in advocating for environmental and mental health causes.
“We will and have been very active in the space on things that really matter,” he said, adding Virgin Australia was focused on hitting targets for reducing carbon emissions.
“You will hear us use our brand to push whatever cause we think needs to be pushed at that time, and we will speak up when we need to.”
Joyce maintained it was his interpretation that the government wants businesses speaking out on economic issues but said “good companies” will speak out on social issues as well.
He added that Qantas had been vocal on supporting economic issues, citing the airline’s support for company tax cuts and its warning against Labor’s industrial relations policies.
“We’re not going to pull back on what we say on social issues because that’s important to our employees, our customers, our shareholders,” Joyce said.