Corporate Australia is lining up to back the Yes vote for the Indigenous Voice to Parliament, but a leading No campaigner claims they are being ‘bullied into it’.
The giant companies supporting constitutional change to bring about the advisory body include NAB, the Commonwealth Bank, ANZ, BHP, Rio Tinto, Wesfarmers, Woolworths, Coles and Qantas.
Warren Mundine, a leading advocate of the No vote, claimed corporations are being harassed into supporting the Voice by investors and clients with the threat of boycotts hanging over them if they were to come out on the other side.
There are also fears taking such a stance would put a company immediately offside with the government.
‘I sat with a business colleague the other day and his phone had a “ting” and it was a message,’ Mr Mundine told Daily Mail Australia.
‘He showed the message and it was from a colleague saying “you are bashing down on Aboriginals, you are racist” – if we are seeing that it is probably bigger than that.
Corporate giants such as the Commonwealth Bank are overwhelmingly throwing their support behind the Yes vote to create the Indigenous Voice to Parliament
‘I am not surprised that people have been bullied into these positions. We’ve seen the comments that have been made public (about those backing the No vote).
‘You can imagine what the pressure is like in the background for a lot of these corporates.’
Despite being a leading campaigner against the Voice, Mr Mundine, who sits on the boards of mining and energy companies, claimed even he was being told to back the Voice with his business interests.
‘Some of my shareholders are making comments about it – a lot of bullying,’ he said.
Health supplements company Blackmores has been targeted by online activists who called for a boycott of their products after the founder’s son Marcus Blackmore backed the ‘No’ vote.
The Blackmores Group, which Mr Blackmore sold his 18 per cent stake in during April, was quick to distance themselves from his comments by noting he had not worked at the company or been a director for over two years.
Blackmores Group has distanced itself from the statements made by Marcus Blackmore (pictured left with wife Caroline) supporting the No campaign for the Voice referendum
Mr Blackmore’s statements led to a trending hashtag on Twitter on Saturday by activists wanting to boycott the brand
‘His views are completely independent of Blackmores Group,’ a spokesperson said.
Advertising and PR guru Adam Ferrier thinks there is plenty of upside for companies that support the Voice as long as ‘it reaffirms their values and beliefs and what they stand for’.
‘There’s a lot of things that make up a corporation’s success and one of them is internal employee pride and often they want to see the place that they work taking a stance on the issues that they find personally motivating,’ Mr Ferrier told Daily Mail Australia.
As to what motivates a corporation to support a political or social stance, Mr Ferrier said it It can range ‘from a purely cynical PR move to something a corporation really believes in’ but generally companies will only back already popular causes.
‘Most corporations are in the mass-marketing game so when they do come out and take a public stand on issues, it’s normally going with the collective,’ Mr Ferrier said.
‘If you follow the sporting codes it’s normally a pretty safe bet the way Australia’s leaning and all the sporting codes have backed the Yes vote which means they see it as a popular mainstream message with little reputation risk.
‘They are like the canary in the coalmine or the bellwether of popular opinion so I am sure you are going to see many other corporations coming out in support of the Yes vote.’
Advertising and PR guru Adam Ferrier thinks there can be a lot of upside for corporates supporting political causes
Mr Ferrier said this demonstrated a herd mentality.
‘When corporations do come out in support of something, you normally see that if it had been de-risked by other people,’ he said.
‘They would have done the research, they would know their mainstream base is in support of the issue and therefore it de-risks it for everybody else to come out and support the issue as well.’
However, Mr Ferrier admitted that staff who did not agree with their employer’s view could be put in an awkward position and feel pressured to stay silent.
‘My organisation Thinkerbell is very much in the Yes camp and we are very keen to let people know that,’ Mr Ferrier said.
‘But we also want to hear from the people who are saying, “no, we want to understand that a little better”.
‘I think as long as people are feeling heard and not being told “you have to vote a certain way”, I think it is OK.’
The lack of corporate support for the No case gave Mr Ferrier confidence the Yes vote will prevail in the referendum to be held later this year.
‘Humans are social animals,’ he said.
‘Humans take great comfort in following the herd.
‘You point that out to any individual and they will find that offensive.
‘Everyone loves to think they have their own independent brain and free spirit but we take great comfort in doing what other people are doing and following what other people do.
‘I think we tend to follow people in power even though as Australians we find that concept abhorrent.
‘I also come back to the sporting codes backing it. That feels like it is going to be a Yes vote.’
However, Mr Mundine is betting the opposite will occur.
‘The large majority of our supporters who are putting their two bob in are working class people, Aboriginal Australians,’ he said.
‘You look at any of the referendums we have had throughout Australia – unless it’s from the grassroots and from people on the ground, they are very mistrustful of politicians.
‘They are mistrustful of elites. It turns them off if they feel like they are being pushed around.
‘This is why the Yes vote is so low because people are seeing that and one thing about Australians is they don’t like bullies and people who scream abuse and who attack people.’
Mr Mundine said he was facing accusations that his opposition to the Voice was motivated by ‘secret’ payments from mining and energy interests.
‘They’ve got this campaign that Warren’s being paid by the mining industry, he’s being paid by Gina Rinehart, that is all total nonsense, it is a lie,’ he said.
Warren Mundine says the No campaign is waging a ‘David versus Goliath’ struggle against the corporate might backing the Voice
Pointing to the public commitments by BHP and Rio Tinto, he argued ‘the mining industry is supporting the Yes case’.
With the public weight of corporate Australia on the other side, Mr Mundine likened the battle to that of David versus Goliath.
‘At the end of this campaign everyone has got to do their returns, then you will see difference,’ he said.
‘We have an office in Sydney with four people. How many people are sitting in (the Yes campaign’s) offices?’
A Roy Morgan poll in late May showed that 46 per cent of respondents said they would vote ‘Yes’ while 36 per cent were in the No camp with 18 per cent were in the undecided.
The organisation noted the Yes vote had fallen by seven per cent since December and has dropped in all states, with a referendum needing to get an overall majority and also win the vote in a majority of states to pass.
Mr Mundine maintained the aggressive tone of the Yes campaign was putting people off and gave the example of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese calling No voters ‘Chicken Littles of the past’ on Monday.
‘It’s ironic that the PM keeps talking about the misinformation and attacks of the No campaign but he has called people Chicken Littles,’ Mr Mundine said, noting that subsequently Mr Albanese had to declare that people who vote No aren’t racist.
‘He had to do that because the backlash was amazing,’ Mr Mundine asserted.
‘We saw about a three per cent drop in the polling.
‘I like free speech and I like to see the PM speak a lot and (Voice advocate) Noel Pearson speak a lot because every time they do, the polls go down.’
Source: | This article originally belongs to Dailymail.co.uk