Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has become a difficult man to like.
After Israel Folau posted allegedly homophobic content to his social media Joyce played no small part in securing the end of Folau’s rugby career by using his company’s sponsorship of the national side as leverage.
While that might seem fair enough at face value – especially considering Joyce is a homosexual himself – in reality it was a very petty and disproportionate response.
Folou’s posts were made on his own social media, intended to only be seen by his fans, many of whom are devout Christians like Israel himself is.
The posts themselves were religious in nature, urging repentance for many sinners, which is what the church considers gay people to be. While few would argue this opinion is widely out of touch in the modern world, there is also a couple things worth remembering like freedom of religion and freedom of speech.
Sure, Folau’s views are unpopular and divisive. Most people would disagree with him. But he still has the right to his opinion, and we all have the right to disagree with him.
Amongst a mature society, such posts would lead to sensible debate and an inevitable conclusion of “agree to disagree”. But this is not a mature society. Those who object to Folau’s religious beliefs regarding homosexuals are not going to change their minds. But neither is he.
And that’s ok. It’s ok to have different beliefs and opinions. At least it used to be.
Instead, Joyce and then-head of rugby Raelene Castle embarked on a very public campaign to remove Folau (probably the best player in the team at the time) from the side and besmirch his reputation for simply having the gall to preach his religion through a relatively narrow public channel.
Remember, he did so on social media only. He never got on television and tried to cram his beliefs down the world’s throat and threaten those who disagreed.
Nope, it was Rugby Australia and Alan Joyce who employed those tactics, ending the international career of one of Australia’s greatest athletes simply because they couldn’t agree to disagree. They only needed to distance themselves from his comments and life could have gone on. Instead, they flew into a holier-than-thou rage and the whole thing became a circus.
Despite the disparity of how Folau and his detractors went about their business, I can still empathise with Joyce. Perhaps he genuinely felt Folau’s posts were an attack against his sexuality and himself. No doubt a company as large as Qantas employs a significant number of gay people and Joyce perhaps felt obligated to take a stand for them. In any case, he’s just as entitled to express his opinion as Folau.
Maybe the two of them should have met privately and talked it out like grown ups. At least they may have understood each other better while still being at odds on the issue.
But then COVID came around and Joyce proceeded to display the hypocritical CEO dickholery so typical of overpaid men at the helms of big organisations.
While COVID has certainly wreaked havoc on the travel industry, Joyce cried poor about having to stand down staff without pay. He begged the government to chip in.
This from the man who shipped Australian maintenance jobs overseas to save a few bucks.
The same man who took home almost $24 million dollars in salary and bonuses in 2019.
While he is certainly not obligated to return even a cent, I’m sure the tens of thousands of Qantas workers who live paycheque to paycheque would have appreciated some assistance from the man who lines his pockets off the back of their work.
After all, despite the layoffs and dozens of aircraft sitting idle, we all know Mr Joyce is not struggling to pay his bills or put food on his table during this pandemic. That sort of plight belongs to his employees.
At least, the ones he hasn’t made redundant to keep his bonuses as fat as possible.
Instead he’s played poor and blamed the federal government for the state of his airline and the travel industry at large. Granted, all levels of government have made mistakes handling the coronavirus outbreak, but Joyce’s actions are exactly the kind of rhetoric you would expect from a politician. Point the finger of blame, take no responsibility and wait for someone else to fix the problem.
Admittedly, he received no salary in 2020 to help Qantas manage the pandemic, but I can’t help wonder if he would have been willing to do so without that obscene bonus the year before.
Personally, Alan Joyce makes me not want to fly Qantas. I don’t want a cent of my fare money ending up in his pocket; he certainly doesn’t need it. He’s as intolerant as he accused Israel Folau of being and he works from the same scummy CEO playbook of many of his contemporaries, prioritising profit over the very people who make that profit possible.
Australia’s largest and most storied airline deserves better both in character and performance. Until then, I’ll be flying the newly revamped Virgin. There’s nothing wrong with healthy competition anyway.