Corporate Australia is lining up to support the yes vote for the Indigenous vote in parliament, but a leading no campaigner claims they are being ‘bullied into it’.
The giant corporations backing the constitutional amendment to create the advisory body include NAB, the Commonwealth Bank, ANZ, BHP, Rio Tinto, Wesfarmers, Woolworths, Coles and Qantas.
Warren Mundine, a leading advocate of the no vote, claimed companies are being harassed by investors and customers into supporting the vote, with the threat of boycotts hanging over them if they came out on the other side.
There are also fears that taking such a stance would immediately sideline a company from the government.
“I was sitting with a business colleague recently and his phone had a ‘ting’ and it was a message,” Mr Mundine told Daily Mail Australia.
“He showed the message and it was from a colleague who said, ‘You bash on Aboriginal people, you’re racist’ – when we see it’s probably bigger than that.
Corporate giants like the Commonwealth Bank are voting massively behind the yes vote to create the indigenous voice in parliament
“It doesn’t surprise me that people in these positions have been bullied. We’ve seen the comments that have been made public (about those who support the no vote).
“You can imagine the pressure in the background at many of these corporates.”
Despite being a leading campaigner against the Voice, Mr Mundine, who sits on the boards of mining and energy companies, claimed that even he was told to support the Voice with his business interests.
“Some of my shareholders are commenting on it — a lot of harassment,” he said.
Health supplement company Blackmores has been targeted by online activists calling for a boycott of their products after the founder’s son, Marcus Blackmore, supported the “No” vote.
The Blackmores Group, in which Mr Blackmore sold his 18 percent stake in April, quickly distanced himself from his comments by noting that he had not worked at the company or been a director in more than two years.
Blackmores Group has distanced itself from statements by Marcus Blackmore (pictured left with wife Caroline) who supports the No campaign for the Voice referendum
Mr Blackmore’s comments sparked a trending hashtag on Twitter on Saturday by activists seeking to boycott the brand
“His views are completely separate from Blackmores Group,” a spokesman said.
Advertising and PR guru Adam Ferrier thinks there are plenty of benefits for companies backing The Voice, as long as it “affirms their values and beliefs and what they stand for.”
“There are many things that determine the success of a company and one of them is the internal pride of employees and often they want the place where they work to take a stand on the issues that personally motivate them,” Mr Ferrier told the Daily Mail Australia .
What motivates a company to support a political or social position, Mr Ferrier said. It can range from “a purely cynical PR move to something a company really believes in,” but in general, companies only support popular causes.
“Most companies engage in mass marketing, so when they come out and take a public stance on issues, it’s normally done collectively,” Mr Ferrier said.
“If you follow the sporting codes it’s normally a pretty safe bet as Australia’s propensity and all sporting codes have supported the yes vote meaning they see it as a popular mainstream message with little reputational risk.
“They’re like the canary in the coal mine or the gauge of public opinion, so I’m sure you’ll see a lot of other companies backing the yes vote.”
Advertising and PR guru Adam Ferrier thinks there can be a lot of advantage for companies that support political causes
Mr Ferrier said this showed a herd mentality.
“Normally when companies back something, you see that if the risk had been removed by other people,” he said.
“They would have done the research, they would know that their mainstream base supports the issue and therefore the risk of everyone coming out and supporting the issue is reduced.”
However, Mr Ferrier admitted that employees who disagree with their employer’s views can be put in an uncomfortable position and pressured to remain silent.
“My organization Thinkerbell is very much in the yes camp and we really want people to know that,” said Mr. Ferrier.
‘But we also want to hear from the people who say: ‘no, we want to understand that a little better’.
“I think as long as people feel heard and not told ‘you have to vote a certain way’, I think it’s okay.”
The lack of corporate support for the no cause gave Mr Ferrier confidence that the yes vote will prevail in the referendum to be held later this year.
“Humans are social animals,” he said.
“People love to follow the herd.
“If you point it out to someone, they’ll find it offensive.
“Everyone likes to think they have their own independent brain and free spirit, but we take great comfort in doing what other people do and following what other people do.
“I think we tend to follow those in power, even though as Australians we find that concept repulsive.
“I’ll also come back to the sports codes that support it. That feels like it’s going to be a yes vote.’
However, Mr. Mundine is betting that the opposite will happen.
“The vast majority of our supporters showing off their two bobs are working-class people, Aboriginal Australians,” he said.
“If you look at all the referendums we’ve had across Australia, they’re very suspicious of politicians unless it comes from grassroots and people on the ground.
They distrust the elite. It turns them off if they feel like they’re being pushed around.
“This is why the yes vote is so low because people see that and one thing about Australians is they don’t like bullies and people who call names and attack people.”
Mr Mundine said he faced allegations that his opposition to The Voice was motivated by ‘secret’ payments from mining and energy interests.
“They have this campaign that Warren is being paid by the mining industry, he is being paid by Gina Rinehart, that’s all total bullshit, it’s a lie,” he said.
Warren Mundine says No campaign is ‘David versus Goliath’ battle against corporate power behind The Voice
Referring to BHP and Rio Tinto’s public commitments, he argued “the mining supports the Yes cause’.
With the public weight of Australian business on the other side, Mr Mundine likened the fight to that of David against Goliath.
‘At the end of this campaign, everyone has to file their declaration, then you will see the difference,’ he said.
‘We have an office in Sydney with four people. How many people are in (the Yes campaign) offices?’
A Roy Morgan poll at the end of May found that 46 percent of respondents said they would vote ‘yes’, while 36 percent were in the no camp and 18 percent in the undecided.
The organization noted that the yes vote has fallen by seven percent since December and is down in all states, requiring a referendum to receive an overall majority and also win the vote in a majority of states to pass.
Mundine insisted the aggressive tone of the Yes campaign put people off and gave the example of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese calling the No voters ‘Chicken Littles of the past’ on Monday.
“It is ironic that the Prime Minister continues to talk about the disinformation and attacks of the No campaign, but he has called people Chicken Littles,” Mundine said, pointing out that Mr Albanese then had to declare that people who vote No are not racist.
“He had to do that because the recoil was awesome,” Mr Mundine claimed.
“We saw a drop of about three percent in the polls.
“I like freedom of speech and I like to see the Prime Minister speak a lot and (voting attorney) Noel Pearson speak a lot because every time they do, the polls go down.”