Yesterday, telco giant Telstra quietly backed off from an ad supporting same-sex marriage alongside the Australian Marriage Equality organisation.
The company, despite not asking for its logo to be removed from the AME ad, which was circulated in May last year, has admitted to withdrawing from the public debate due to so-called pressures from the Catholic Church, a big spender with the business.
The Archdiocese of Sydney business manager Michael Digges wrote to corporations whose logos were openly featured on a full-page AME ad, Telstra included, questioning whether said companies should be “participating in such an important matter”.
“For corporations to speak on such issues on behalf of shareholders, employees, clients/customers, suppliers and other stakeholders is indeed overstepping their purpose and is to be strongly resisted,” he said.
In a release circulated yesterday, the Church stated, “Digges today repeated his serious concerns about business organisations promoting and identifying themselves with campaigns on social issues purporting to be on behalf of all employees, shareholders, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders”.
“It is misleading to say the Archdiocese threatened in any way a boycott of companies included in the campaign.”
Telstra CEO Andy Penn has now made an official statement, which was issued to B&T this morning, reaffirming its commitment to the same-sex marriage debate.
“Following yesterday’s marriage equality debate around Telstra, I want to be clear about Telstra’s perspective as our long track record in diversity and inclusion was generally overlooked,” Penn said.
“We clearly need to make this simple statement: Telstra supports marriage equality as part of the great importance we place on diversity and standing against all forms of discrimination.
“Equally we recognise there are many and varied views and if we are all truly accepting of diversity, there should be room made for all of them.
“While Telstra continues to support Australian Marriage Equality and has not changed that position, we have made a decision not to publicly participate in the debate further. This is because the proposed plebiscite process gives everyone an opportunity to contribute and out of respect, it is important we allow them to voice their own views.
“However, this position was interpreted by some as us abandoning our tradition of supporting diversity and inclusion, be it in the community or in our workplace. This could not be further from the truth.”
According to yesterday’s statement, Telstra has no future plans to participate in public debates surrounding the issue, preferring to leave its customers to make up their own minds.
B&T contacted the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney but had not heard back at time of publishing.