US asset manager Mercy Investment Services has backed a shareholder resolution for Qantas, over the airline’s participation in the involuntary transport of refugees and asylum seekers.
Qantas has a contract with the Australian government to provide airline services, including involuntary transportation – however to the criticism of shareholders, the company has not disclosed details on the nature of the agreement or carried out an assessment of human rights risks involved.
The resolution filed by activist shareholder group Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR) calls on Qantas to review its policies and processes relating to deportation with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights as a basis.
The ACCR has also urged Qantas to provide shareholders with the results of the proposed 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 annual meeting in October.
Shareholder scrutiny over Qantas’ role in Australia’s refugee policy comes on the back of a global realignment of companies and investors funding US immigration and prison infrastructure.
ACCR made a similar resolution to the Australian airline last year, which was supported by 6 per cent of investors, including Californian pension company CalPERS and Dutch asset manager PGGM.
Dhakshayini Sooriyakumaran, director of human rights at ACCR said the resolution is “the absolute bare minimum requirement of Qantas,” to discharge its responsibility to respect human rights in its operations, under the UN principles.
“It is time for investors to take a stand. In this regard, Mercy Investment Services is showing important leadership within the investment sector,” Ms Sooriyakumaran said.
“We have met with Qantas multiple times over that past 18 months, and we have reiterated our request, in the context of the increasing risk of the company’s complicity in human rights violations after the federal election.
“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.”
Sarah Simpkins is a journalist at Momentum Media, reporting primarily on banking, financial services and wealth.
Prior to joining the team in 2018, Sarah worked in trade media and produced stories for a current affairs program on community radio.
You can contact her on [email protected].
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