Senator Matt Canavan on homosexuality, corporate Australia and China

Nationals senator Matt Canavan has called on corporate Australia to stand up to communist China, support the defence of Australia, and put patriotism over profits, and he says companies should be more vocal on the issue because they previously stood up for marriage equality.

Senator Canavan says Australia’s business leaders need to spend less time raising the rainbow flag, and focus on the Australian flag in order to defend the nation.

The Queensland senator spoke to the Brisbane Mining Club last Thursday, and while his comments were reported in the media, his references to marriage equality and homosexuality – as they relate to Sino-Australian relationships – were not included.

In a transcript of his speech shared by his office, Senator Canavan says although he was against marriage equality, he never complained about business leaders and companies showing their support for same-sex couples. Based on that premise he says companies should now be more patriotic and stand up against communist China.

“I say this as someone who has never been critical of corporations involving themselves in political debates. I disagreed with the position that many businesses took in supporting same sex marriage, but I never quibbled with their right to involve themselves in political issues, even ones that are controversial.” Senator Canavan reportedly told the gathering of mining executives.

“But from that logic, there should be no compunction for corporate leaders to involve themselves in the political debate about the defence of our country. That is also controversial. But the defence of our country is at least as important as the rights of same sex attracted Australians. Indeed, defending Australia is the only way that minority groups will continue to enjoy the unapparelled rights they enjoy in modern Australia. The Chinese Communist Party is not particularly fond of homosexuality.”

Senator Canavan suggests that full support of Australia’s LGBTIQ+ communities also includes a clear stance against an aggressive China, and business leaders need to fly the Australian flag as much as they hoist the Pride flag.

“An unremarked vulnerability of our nation now, compared to then, is the distinct lack of evident patriotism of our corporate sector. I would gamble that you are more likely to find rainbow flags flying in our nation’s corporate offices than Australian flags.” Senator Canavan said.

“We need our corporate leaders back on Team Australia to help defend this country and all the benefits it has provided our businesses. We need a new era of business leaders willing to unashamedly fly our flag and defend all the good that it represents.”

Calling for “patriotism over profits”, Senator Cananvan also highlighted environmental support as a precedent that should allow businesses to join his stance against China.

“Most large Australian companies have climate change plans. We are told these are in place to protect the viability of the business from the impacts of climate change, or climate change policies that may be implemented by us or others.

“Yet, when I ask Australian mining companies whether they have a China plan, I normally get a blank response. But the risks and consequences of China triggering a conflict in our region are much greater than any impact of climate change, especially to those Australian businesses heavily reliant on iron ore for profits.”

“Instead of organising press conferences with Chinese government officials, our corporations should develop plans to tackle the Chinese Communist Party.” Senator Canavan said.

The remarks, sent out from Senator Canavan’s office, suggest that because many Australian businesses were kept afloat via the government’s JobKeeper funding, companies now had a moral obligation to support the government’s stance on China.

“Corporate leaders can play an important role in leading the debate on Australia’s defence and many corporations can do more than just talk. We also need action to restore our industrial strength and ability to fight any coming conflict.” Senator Canavan said.

“All Australian companies have benefited from the generosity of the Australian Government over the past year. I don’t expect companies to pay back JobKeeper directly, but indirectly there is a moral obligation for Australian companies to be part of a NationKeeper program that sees them invest in industries that can strengthen Australia’s defence capabilities.”

Senator Canavan encouraged companies to invest in the manufacturing sector, create coal mines, buy back Australian ports, invest in steel works, and consider weapons manufacturing.

“I believe that some of the timidity of Australia’s leaders is that they have become too distracted by the pied piper of social media. Like our corporate offices, there are more rainbow flag emojis, than Australian flag emojis, on twitter. Yet social media is a fake version of Australia. Very few Australians actually post about politics on Instagram or Facebook.” Senator Canavan said.

“I encourage our business leaders to get off social media and spend more time with their workforces. There I am sure they will find people who want to defend our nation against Chinese aggression whatever the cost to their jobs or livelihoods. Australia is worth the sacrifice.”

What is the state of LGBTI rights in China?

Homosexuality was largely invisible in China when it first established itself as a socialist country. Since the 1980s LGBT+ communities have become more visible. Marriage is only permitted between heterosexual couples, and LGBTI people cannot adopt or foster children.

All mentions of homosexuality were removed from the Chinese penal code in 1997, the same year Australia achieved nation-wide decriminalisation of homosexuality. In 2001 the Chinese Society of Psychiatry stopped classifying homosexuality as a mental disorder.

In recent years there have been some court cases challenging the government’s position that prevents same-gender couples from marrying. Since 2017 same-gender couples have been able to appoint each other as their legal guardian so partner’s can make important decisions for each other.

In recent decisions the courts have also ruled in favour of transgender people who have been discriminated on the basis of their gender. Transgender people, who have undergone surgery, can wed a person of another binary gender.

There is a vibrant gay scene in many Chinese cities, however many people face intense pressure from their families to marry, as many grew up under the country’s ‘one child’ policy that ran from the 1980s through to 2015.

Graeme Watson 

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