Foul play in a battle for the national heart

Allan Joyce: Picture: Renee Nowytarger

It should have been a difference of opinion between two men, but it has flared into an international moral battle.
Rugby star Israel Folau, when questioned, gave a Biblical answer via Twitter, which was then used by others to create a firestorm of commentary and reaction.
Qantas, (more particularly Alan Joyce, their CEO) showed displeasure at the Tweet, and sponsor-hungry rugby bosses then decided to get rid of Folau.

The tweet contained a list of sins which, if not repented of, would, according to the Bible, land a person in hell. The fact that all the opposition relates to only one “sin” on that list, has been pointed out by many but justified by none as far as I can see.

Folau is something special on the rugby field. His accolades are many, and his athletic prowess is nearly universally admired.
Alan Joyce likewise is a champion in the business world, successfully steering the iconic Qantas through the fiercely competitive world of the airline business.
Now, out of their professional roles, they stand as opposing poles in this battle for the moral high ground.

A couple of weeks back, I read of a Ms Castle (Rugby Australia spokes-person) saying, for the sake of the “game”, Folau will almost certainly have to go.
Ms Castle’s comment immediately gave me a flashback of a friend saying to me, many years ago; “Aahhh, rugby …. The game that is played in heaven!” (My friend is Welsh and a Christian.)

We lived for some years in the south Auckland suburb of Manurewa and, every day, if you cruised the streets of ‘Rewa’ you would see several rugby matches underway, in parks, front-yards, and on the road of our cul-de-sac.
I am not a fan of the game, but I often enjoyed watching those friendly tussles. A great way for kids to grow up with a bit of guided rough-and-tumble.
Anyway, this tiny rugby-background of mine convinced me that Ms Castle actually meant to say that she was speaking for the sake of the BUSINESS because the game doesn’t need this mollycoddling oversight. In fact, the game players I’ve watched would nearly universally tell her to grow up.

When we contacted Rugby Australia about this affair, they replied with some reference to needing to find a delicate balance across of spectrum of public viewpoints. It seemed weird to read the words “delicate” and “rugby” in the same sentence.

This collision of opinions has hit the headlines because Qantas is a major sponsor for Rugby Australia.
Alan Joyce, the boss of Qantas, is gay. I remember seeing a threatening comment he is alleged to have made during the campaign for the homosexual marriage referendum in Australia a couple of years back. It was an alert to the Australian public that those on the wrong side of the debate would risk not being able to fly or bank.

Mr Joyce, may not have many fans, but he can wield a dollar-heavy opinion.

When some old guy put a pie on Mr Joyce’s face while he was giving a public talk, the old guy’s penalty showed the power of Joyce’s opinion.
The pie-man had a different opinion about homosexual marriage, and he had an anti-social way of sharing his opinion.

He got his just deserts from the subsequent court case which cost him nearly $4000 in a fine and other costs. But the stinger was the LIFE ban on flying with Qantas or any of its subsidiaries. I have to wonder if such a ban can be legal?


Joyce said in a 2011 interview:

I despise any type of racism or discrimination of any type, and I think it’s absolutely the wrong thing to do, to home in on a particular area. I don’t think there’s any difference between attacking somebody because of their Irish accent and attacking someone because of their colour.

[…] They’re all forms of racism. I think a lot of Australians feel the same way – it’s not appropriate, and it’s insulting to whatever race, whatever nationality. I don’t think there should be those jibes against any ethnic group.”

Alan Joyce


While I partially agree with his views, and largely admire his staunch support/defence of them, I am alarmed at the vindictive treatment of the pie-man, who by all reports was greatly humbled by his own folly and profusely apologized to Joyce, to Qantas, and to his own family. One could say that Mr Joyce is not a good sport.

Then of course, there is the irony of the Emirates connection. Introduced over 2012/2013 and furthered in 2017, this is a partnership that is useful for Emirates and vital for Qantas. Has Emirates expressed any opinion on Folau’s tweet? Mr Joyce is “disappointed” by it. How does Mr Joyce feel about the ideology which underpins his business partner?

Australians have reason to feel good about Qantas, coming up to its centennial in November next year but Australia loves it sport too, and a “fair go” is right at the core of the “she’ll be right mate” national culture. Mr Joyce would like to hang onto his job until the big ton, but it’s increasingly starting to stink of foul play in this battle for the national heart.

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