Aussie Rock Royalty Slams Qantas’ Refugee Deal As ‘Publicly Toxic’

An article about Australian rock musicians, including Mark Seymour, condemning Qantas for having deals with the Australian Government to transport refugees and asylum seekers.

Author:  Alex Bruce-Smith, Ten Daily News.

Date: 16 August 2018.

Original URL:


Article Text

The Hunters and Collectors frontman is the latest to urge Qantas and Virgin Australia to cease involvement in Australia’s refugee program.

An Aussie rock icon has added his voice to the campaign pushing Qantas and Virgin Australia to end its compliance with the country’s refugee policy.

Hunters and Collectors frontman Mark Seymour has signed on to the campaign, which already boasts more than 60 industry leaders across unions, law groups and universities.

“My country’s treatment of asylum seekers is not a neutral space,” he told ten daily exclusively.

“It has been deliberately politicized by successive federal governments through ever increasing systematic cruelty, forced indefinite detention, refoulement to countries of origin, and medical negligence in off-shore camps.

“It is publicly toxic and no place for corporate endorsement.”

Qantas is being urged to quit participating in the Australian government’s refugee policy. Photo: Getty.

Currently, both Qantas and Virgin Australia transport refugees and asylum seekers between detentions, to emergency medical appointments, and in some cases, back to their country of origin.

A joint campaign between two bodies is putting the pressure on both airlines to discontinue, saying it’s a direct violation of international legal standards.

“I would feel deeply compromised and disrespected if I knew that a Qantas flight I was on was engaged in the enforced deportation of refugees whose circumstances remained the subject of contested legal process,” continued Seymour.

“The national carrier should never be used as an arm of government policy especially when that policy remains as toxic as it is now.

“The Australian travelling public deserve greater respect.”

Also adding her name to the campaign is a family member of one of Qantas’ founding members.

Sir Fergus McMaster, a founder of the company that would become Qantas. Photo: Wikipedia.

Sir Fergus McMaster was one of three founding members of the Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Service, as Qantas was originally known, serving as founding chairman from its inception at 1920.

Almost a century later, his great-niece, the poet and novelist Rhyll McMaster, said she hoped her great-uncle, though a conservative, would have supported the cause.

“In order to protect our own human rights, we must protect the rights of other vulnerable, innocent people who seek our protection,” she told ten daily.

“I can’t really speak [for Sir Fergus], but… because my father was a thoughtful, liberal and educated man who taught me how to look at issues of justice, I hope my great-uncle would have been open-hearted on this issue.”

The more than 60 names already backing the petition — which includes former president of the Human Rights Commision Gillian Triggs — is a joint effort between the Australian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR) and the Refugee Advice and Casework Service (RACS).

Gillian Triggs is one of more than 60 names to support the effort. Photo: AAP.

Their plan is to lean heavily on the positive brand images cultivated by Qantas and Virgin Australia.

Qantas, which cultivates a feel-good brand image, told ten daily last week that it was governments, not airlines, that are “best placed to make decisions on complex immigration matters”.

But the ACCR’s Brynn O’Brien countered, telling ten daily that it was “companies, not governments, that are best placed to make decisions on business risk.”