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Australian flag-carrier Qantas facing new shareholder proposal on migrant deportations

Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility has the backing it needs to file again

Listed Australian flag-carrier Qantas looks set to face another shareholder proposal on its involvement in forced deportations of migrants.

The Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR), the not-for-profit shareholder advocacy group and prolific filer of resolutions, told RI that it is preparing to file again after the company failed to conduct a human rights risk review of the issue.

ACCR’s resolution at Qantas last year was supported by just 6% of investors – including Californian pension giant CalPERS and PGGM of the Netherlands – with US firms ISS and Glass Lewis and Australian advisor Regnan all recommending a vote against.

Despite dialogue with the company over the last year, Qantas confirmed to the ACCR at a meeting in July that it had not conducted a human rights risk review, prompting the non-profit group to plan to re-file the resolution ahead of the company’s annual meeting in October.

The ACCR has confirmed to RI that it already has the 100 shareholders it needs to file the resolution again this year.

In its summary of the engagement, the ACCR states that Qantas’ contract with the Australian government, which includes the involuntary transport of refugees and asylum seekers, was undertaken “without a commensurate human rights due diligence process in place” – putting Qantas in a “position of non-conformity” with the United Nations’ Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs).Risks around deportations are particularly acute in Australia, according to the ACCR, due to changes in the law around the country’s non-refoulement obligations, which came into effect in 2014.

Qantas in “position of non-conformity” with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights

Under international law, this forbids a country receiving asylum seekers from returning them to a country in which they could face persecution.

In the next few weeks the ACCR will host an investor briefing to explore “in detail” the “legal framework, human rights risks and airlines commitments under the UNGPs with regard to involuntary transportation”.

Qantas did not provide comment at the time of writing.

It also revealed that it is filing several other ESG proposals at Origin, including another on the energy firm’s climate lobbying activities; a resolution last year on the issue was backed by 41% of shareholders, a record in Australian corporate history.
The other resolutions to be filed at Origin by the ACCR cover emission targets; the public health risks of its coal operations; and, on informed consent relating to Origin’s proposed fracking activities in the Beetaloo Sub-Basin in Australia’s Northern Territory.