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Qantas throws weight behind Voice with travel for ‘yes’ campaigners

Qantas is providing travel for the Yes23 campaign and the Uluru Dialogue teams “so they can engage with regional and remote Australians”.

The airline is also decorating three planes with special “yes” campaign livery.

Outgoing Qantas chief Alan Joyce appeared on Monday with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Indigenous figures for the unveiling of the livery. It will be on a Qantas Boeing 737, a QantasLink Dash 8 Turboprop and a Jetstar Airbus A320.

Joyce has previously been a strong campaigner, notably on the same sex marriage issue.

The Qantas travel donation might invite some controversy, given the recent reaction against the airline and Joyce over high fares and late and cancelled flights.

Recently there has also been criticism of the apparent closeness between Albanese and Qantas and its CEO.

The government has refused Qatar Airways additional flights into Australia. It said it was acting in the “national interest”, referring variously to climate change and protecting local jobs.

Qantas opposed the additional flights. So did women who are taking legal action over a 2020 incident in which they were taken off a Qatar Airways aircraft and subjected to intimate searches after a newborn baby was found abandoned in Doha airport. The Australian government protested strongly at the time. It says the incident has not driven the refusal of extra flights.

Albanese has been embarrassed by a report that his son, Nathan, had been made a member of the exclusive Qantas Chairman’s Lounge.

The PM would have faced questions on these issues had he spoken to reporters after the Qantas event, but he did not do so.

Asked by The Conversation for the total dollar value of the travel Qantas is providing for the “yes” campaigners, and who would be eligible, the airline only said it would be fairly modest.

Apart from the specific example of Qantas, there is now some feeling that corporates’ involvement in the referendum may alienate rather than persuade some voters.

Read more: Politics with Michelle Grattan: 'yes' campaigner Thomas Mayo and 'no' advocate Derryn Hinch on the Voice

Joyce said support for an Indigenous Voice continued Qantas’s “long commitment to reconciliation and, more broadly, the notion of a ‘fair go’”.

We’re supporting the Yes23 campaign because we believe a formal voice to government will help close the gap for First Nations people in important areas like health, education and employment.

We know there are a range of views on this issue, including amongst our customers and employees, and we respect that. I encourage people to find out more, to listen to First Nations voices, and to make their own decisions.

Albanese paid tribute to Qantas’s “fine history of having a long-standing commitment to the cause of reconciliation”.

I do remember the impact in the mid 1990s, when you first unveiled the first of your fleet, decked out in an Indigenous design, the striking red of the Wunala dreaming, an unmistakable sight against the vivid blue sky that defines our continent.

For 100 years Qantas has shown the importance of extending ourselves, of reaching higher.

This Yes livery is a worthy addition to that tradition.

Meanwhile, Resources Minister Madeleine King, speaking in Perth, thanked the “long list” of resource companies that had come out for the Voice.

King said Western Australia was “a perfect example for the whole nation of how listening to Aboriginal people only makes us better”.

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