Image credit - @asynca on Twitter.


Image credit - @asynca on Twitter.
Image credit – @asynca on Twitter.

Telstra, not long after serious network issues which have left a foul taste in the mouth of its customers, has now left a foul taste in the mouths of most of common, decent Australia, by withdrawing its support for the Australian Marriage Equality movement. Why did they do so? Seemingly, because the Catholic Church told Telstra how big it was, and that it would withdraw its custom from Telstra if they continued their support of AME.

Rick Morton reported in the Australian today:

It seems that Archdiocese of Sydney business manager Michael Digges wrote to a number of corporations, including Telstra, who had featured prominently in an AME advertisement in May last year. Included in the letter was the thinly-veiled threat:

You may be aware that the Catolic archdiocese of Sydney is a significant user of goods and services from many corporations, both local and international. Undoubtedly, many of the Catholic population of Sydney would be your employees, customers, partners and suppliers. It is therefore with grave concern that I write to you about the Marriage Equality for Australians campaign”.

The implication was clear. Continue your support of AME, and we will reconsider our use of your products and services. It seems it was enough, because Telstra has reportedly quietly retreated from their support of the campaign.

It is reported that Telstra has the contracts for Catholic schools across the country and The Australian spoke with one person familiar with the company’s decision to back away from public support who said the telco “did not want to risk its commercial relationship with the church”.

Telstra has been subject to a fair amount of unpleasantry on social media following the revelations, and we would say probably not without fair cause. Telstra has since responded to the criticism with a statement on its Exchange blog, saying:

Telstra has a long tradition of supporting diversity and inclusion.

Our position on the issue has not changed. We place great importance on diversity and standing against all forms of discrimination.

We also recognise this diversity means our employees, customers and shareholders will have a range of personal views on this topic.

What has changed is that the Government has indicated it will call a plebiscite on the issue and, ultimately, Parliament will decide the matter.

Our people and stakeholders can contribute to this process and out of respect, it is important we allow them to voice their own views.

Given this we have no further plans to be active in the debate.

In other words, absolutely nothing. Whereas previously Telstra were fair supporters of the movement, they’re now backing out entirely and saying its up to the government to deal with. While that is, to an extent, true, I would argue that as a large corporate citizen, Telstra probably has a place in the debate, and walking away from it after being threatened by the Catholic Church shows a lack of ticker.

This lead our Jason Murray to speculate that Telstra was trying to walk away from this as quickly and quietly as they could:

Doesn’t seem like it’s worked.

Regardless of where you stand on this debate, how do you feel about Telstra withdrawing its support based on the actions of the Catholic Church?

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    Justin Sk.

    I think they were right in stepping back, they should stay out of these issues. Why throw in with this kind of debate and divide / lose your customer base.. pretty simple. We already have enough debate and information out there as it is without businesses throwing out their own propaganda..


    Not getting involved is one thing. Being involved and being blackmailed to remove one’s self or loose money, and placing money over morals is another.

    Justin Sk.

    I wouldn’t really call it blackmail so much as what the church guy is saying. Part of their customer base, staff etc ARE catholic (this campaign would extend to all christians, muslims too etc). It’s not so much blackmail as it is a reality really. They just decided to re-account for these customers. They didn’t relaunch it as a traditional marriage campaign or anything so imo all’s fair..


    I would rather see Telstra concentrate on what they are supposed to be doing than chasing social, political, moral issues.


    So the Catholic church told Telstra to stop supporting gays. or loose them as a customer. Well I would have told the church perhaps worry about the priests who sexually molest young boys in the past . This is a free country provided you follow the laws of the land. No organisation, should be able to force their views onto others. I would have told the church although we want your business. we choose to run our business our way. I don’t discriminate against others I don’t understand. I make my decision based on what I can get out of… Read more »

    Darren Ferguson

    It is a free country. No one is forcing their views on others. The church gave them an option. Telstra freely chose it. They could have said “No, get lost”. The church is also free to choose whatever telecommunication provider they want.


    Yes Darren it is a free country with limitations. (provided you stay within the law.)The catholic church would have used it’s considerate power to put pressure on Telstra to abandon it stance. They would have made it clear and simple that if Telstra wanted to keep their business. Of course Darren this is only speculation. But most other forums seem to say the same. Another example is Woolworth, Coles putting pressure on the farmers to take lower margins so that supermarkets can make greater profits competing against companies like Aldi’s who don’t necessarily have the large infrastructure as them. This… Read more »


    The Church should pay tax. They are directing how our society works so should pay their way instead of protecting child molesters and those who cover them up.

    Huge Jackman

    Remind me to never hire you as the CEO of any company whatsoever.


    Meh. I don’t really want companies getting involved in moral crusades just do the damn job I pay them for


    I disagree. I think social activism is an important part of being a major company in contemporary society. It benefits them as a company, and benefits society. Consumers want to know that if they purchase a pair of Nike’s, that it’s not being made by people working in horrible conditions, that the materials the workers use aren’t dangerous, that the shoes can be broken down and re-used once thrown out. Consumers want to know that large industrial companies are doing what they can to reduce emissions into the atmosphere, that they’re not dumping their waste into oceans etc. Companies that… Read more »


    All that will happen is companies will pick whatever side they think gets them the most support. And since you can’t trust the corporation to be genuine what’s the point. Their duty is to heir shareholders to maximise profits not to some flavour of the month ‘issue’.


    That is true, however society generally leans towards environmental protection, worker rights etc.

    So now companies who historically pollute the planet will now have to; 1. State that they support protecting the environment and 2. Demonstrate that they are actually doing so. Whereas in the past, there was no regulation, no one cared and they did what they wanted.

    At least now, with so many consumers being in tune to what corporations are doing, they can bring attention to companies who are doing ethically wrong things.

    I think that’s a lot better than doing nothing.


    I think you have some strong points Andrew. But in the case of Nike’s I would disagree with that. why do Nike’s pay hundreds of millions of dollars to have athletes parade wearing their apparel. It’s just not Nike that does this. Originally they were made in the USA. then it went to Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand and now China. The quality has suffered because of trying to get more profit. Nike and the likes of other don’t care who makes there apparel as long as its cheap and there is a buck to be made. Nike will use its considerate… Read more »


    Absolutely disgusting.

    When money gets in the way of morals, you know you’re a dirty company. Shame on Telstra for backing away from their beliefs.

    I personally don’t believe there should be gay marriage, but if a company takes a position and then backs away from it due to political/threat of financial pressure, it’s a bad look.


    Actually before I get asked (or criticised), I’ll clarify my position on gay marriage as my comment doesn’t read too well – I recognise and understand that marriage has long-term religious connections and has so for thousands of years. So being an atheist, I am all for the separation of church and state, so let’s remove marriage from the Australian constitution. I believe all relationships that are to be recognised under the law should be civil unions. They should be any combination you want; man/woman, woman/woman, man/man – and leave the religious term of ‘marriage’ out of it. It’s a… Read more »


    Well said, Andrew.

    Björn Rostron

    My views exactly. Well said.


    Sounds like you want to replace marriage with something that does the same thing


    What a shame we just signed a two year NBN contract. I definitely would of gone elsewhere if I had seen this only 2 weeks ago


    Check the cooling off period in your contract, which should be more than 2 weeks on a 2 year contract.

    Shakeel Ali

    Not if done in a store where T&C’s are explained face to face. Online or over the phone there is a 30 day period with Telstra (Current Telstra Employee here).

    Björn Rostron

    Terrible. I shall be moving my (albeit small) contracts away from Telstra.

    Dean Rosolen

    Sadly, this isn’t really an option for many given Telstra’s network coverage (even with the recent outages).

    The cynic in me feels that this is why they went after Telstra and not Optus or Vodafone. They knew they could get away with it because network coverage is more important when choosing a mobile service provider.

    Darren Ferguson

    I think it was the fact that they were a customer of Telstra.

    Björn Rostron

    Completely agree and I wouldn’t hold it against anyone who for various reasons won’t or can’t change. I am in the position where I am able and willing to do it.

    Peter Massey

    I’m not usually one for collusion, but all the carriers should have supported AME then told the Catholic Church to stick their business up their dress-wearing posteriors.


    Telstra: Connecting humans (but not those weird, do it in different ways to the 1960’s one).

    Stupid move by Telstra in this day and age, I’ll do my best not to utilize them.


    Telstra should stick to trying to fix their network issues. Leave politicking like this to the greens.

    Oliver Ward

    This is why i go pre-paid, so i can ditch carriers for actions such as this….


    IIRC Optus also support marriage equality, so what were the pope squad going to do exactly?

    Smarter move would have been to have a quick word with Optus, and then make the threat public, with a statement that they won’t be pushed around by a religion, and that they should withdraw and apologise if they wished to keep any service. That way the catholics have to give in AND they score points with the pink dollar.

    As it is, this is likely to cost telstra more than they get from the church in negative publicity.

    Dean Rosolen

    They went for Telstra because Telstra’s mobile network coverage – even with the recent outages – craps all over Optus and Vodafone (particularly in regional areas). People won’t trade away their mobile coverage for a moral high ground.


    No doubt this will result in a backlash against them and I hope it do.


    Telstra is motivated purely by money and nothing else. Most companies put money near the top of the list, but Telstra puts it at number one, no matter what. One of Australia’s most greedy companies, and this is just another example of it.


    I wonder if the left feel used now that corporations like this have simply been joining band wagons like SSM just as because they think they can make money out of it.


    Not as used as Right apologists who are mobilised as faux moral crusaders, when in fact all they’re supporting is a pro-corporate agenda masquerading as values.

    Shakeel Ali

    Well to be honest, any company as large and successful as Telstra SHOULD be motivated purely by the bottom line. Their first and utmost responsibility is to shareholders both internal and external, and not the morals and feelings of the populace.
    The thing people seem to be missing is that Telstra are still in support of marriage equality, but will leave the activism side to others. I’ll admit this is a cop out, but the actual position of the company on the matter at hand hasnt changed.