Telstra, It’s 2016, Marriage Equality Isn’t An ‘Ideology’

Telstra, It’s 2016, Marriage Equality Isn’t An ‘Ideology’

Opinion: Last year Telstra publicly supported Australian Marriage Equality, the major campaign group for same-sex marriage in Australia. Now the telco says it “has no further plans to figure prominently in the wider public debate.”

Organisations such as Telstra in the best position and are the least likely to suffer ill consequences of any facet of society when speaking up for human rights, so why the cowardly backflip? Do contracts with the Catholic Church mean more to Telstra than the equal rights of its customers? It’s difficult to draw any conclusion for this other than, sadly, yes.

Image: Kim Britten /

Telstra holds contracts with the Catholic Church in numerous locations around the country, mostly with schools. Now, the Catholic Church has decided to act on its discomfort with Telstra’s public support for same-sex marriage with a strongly worded letter, as originally reported by The Australian.

“You may be aware that the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney is a significant user of goods and services from many corporations, both local and international,” Michael Digges, the Archdiocese’s Business Manager, wrote to corporate sponsors of Australian Marriage Equality.

“Undoubtedly, many of the Catholic population of Sydney would be your employees, customers, partners and suppliers. It is therefore with grave concern that I write to you about the Marriage Equality for Australians campaign.”

Many of the LGBTQI population of Sydney would be your employees, customers, partners and suppliers, Telstra. And it is with even more grave concern they see your support for their right to live with the same fundamental rights as every other Australian so hastily withdrawn.

The irony of dismissing these customers as living under an “ideology” in order to satisfy the literal ideology of other customers is palpable.

Prediction: An announcement from Telstra is likely imminent, denouncing the individual staff members’ actions as “not being representative of the company” — can you see it already? “Telstra extends apologies for the views expressed by the employee in question and it has been dealt with”, blah blah blah…

Except you can’t really do that when you’re sitting on the fence on issues such as this. Let me break it down for you, Telstra.

Being permissive of bigoted attitudes within your company culture doesn’t allow you to distance yourself from bigoted behaviour. Yes, holding opinions that some members of the human race shouldn’t have access to the same rights and privileges based on their sexual orientation is bigoted. If that’s an uncomfortable association, you might want to look into doing something about that.

By making the choice to step down from the fight for equality you are not simply withdrawing support for the oppressed. You are aiding the suppressors.

This doesn’t cut it, I’m afraid:

A hashtag and an empty assurance is not equal to action, standing behind those who need you. Providing a platform for those who need one. A platform you have been providing with apparent pride for many years.

“Telstra has demonstrated it places great importance on ­diversity and standing against discrimination, in all its forms. Our workforce reflects this ­diversity,” it said in a statement.

This is nothing more than the corporate equivalent of “I don’t have anything against gay people. I have lots of friends who are gay.”

C’mon Telstra. It’s 2016. Don’t go backwards.