Qantas asylum seekers resolution — largest ever vote against a board on human rights issues
In an unprecedented moment in Australian corporate history, at Qantas’ AGM today, 23.56% of shareholders voted in favour of a shareholder resolution put by the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility, against the Qantas board’s recommendation.
The resolution called on Qantas to conduct a review of its human rights risk management processes in relation to its business relationship with the Department of Home Affairs.
Last year a similar resolution was filed by ACCR, which attracted 6.43% of the vote.
Dhakshayini Sooriyakumaran, Director of Human Rights, ACCR said:
“Today marks a huge milestone in Australian corporate history with the largest ever vote against a board on a human rights issue.
“23.56% of Qantas shareholders, representing well over $2 billion dollars of Qantas’ share capital, have signalled that the company is not doing enough to respond to growing concerns around the rights of people seeking asylum who are affected by Qantas’ operations. Shareholder support has more than tripled from last year’s vote of 6.4%.
“In our view, all involuntary transportation activity on Qantas aircraft, including domestic transfers, involves serious risk to rights holders, as well as to the company.
“This is a powerful signal from the investment sector that they are losing patience with companies who do not take steps to end complicity in Australia’s ongoing mistreatment of people seeking asylum.
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Qantas has a contract with the Australian Government to provide various airline services, including the involuntary transportation of refugees and people seeking asylum. However, Qantas has not provided details on the nature of this contract, or carried out an assessment of the human rights risks involved in these activities.
The resolution filed by the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility calls on Qantas to:
- Review its policies and processes relating to involuntary transportation, utilising the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights as a basis for the review; and
- Disclose to shareholders the results of the review, outlining any human rights risks that pose a threat to the company’s interests in the long term.
Read the full text of the resolution here.
US-based asset manager Mercy Investment Services and Californian pensions giant CalPERS voted in support of this year’s resolution. As investors don’t normally predeclare their voting decisions, we are unable to confirm which other funds supported this resolution at this time.