Media release

International investor backs Qantas human rights resolution

US-based asset manager Mercy Investment Services has thrown its support behind a Qantas Airways shareholder resolution, over the commercial airline’s participation in the involuntary transport of refugees and people seeking asylum.

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.

The resolution will be heard at the company’s AGM (25 October). Read the full text of the resolution here.

Dhakshayini Sooriyakumaran, Director of Human Rights at ACCR said:

“We have met with Qantas multiple times over the past 18 months, and we have reiterated our request, in the context of increasing risk of the company’s complicity in human rights violations after the federal election. Qantas has refused to budge.

“Our request is very simple: Qantas should review its policies and processes relating to these high risk activities, and explain how it is proposing to manage any related human rights risks. This is particularly critical given the inadequacy of Australian law in upholding basic human rights standards on this issue.

“This is the absolute bare minimum requirement of Qantas, in order to discharge its responsibility to respect human rights in its operations, under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

“It is time for investors to take a stand, if they consider this framework to be valuable. In this regard, Mercy Investment Services is showing important leadership within the investment sector.

“The Australian government’s refugee policies have been internationally condemned as being in violation of international law, and for putting lives at risk. Australian businesses which have made commercial decisions to facilitate these policies —including Qantas and Virgin— are likely to be complicit in human rights violations.

“Qantas shareholders have every right to expect more from a company which states that it’s about ‘standing up for what’s right, standing up for a fair go, and about standing up for those who can’t’.

“Scrutiny by shareholders of Qantas’ role in Australia’s refugee policy comes on the back of a global realignment of companies and investors that are funding US immigration and prison infrastructure.

A similar resolution filled by ACCR to Qantas last year was supported by 6% of investors, including Californian pension giant CalPERS and PGGM of the Netherlands.

About Mercy Investment Services

Mercy Investment Services, Inc. is a US based asset management program for the Sisters of Mercy and its ministries focusing on non-violence, racism, environment, concern for women, and immigration through socially responsible investing.