Qantas chairman Richard Goyder has told major investors to shun climate activists who buy shares to “hijack” company AGMs.
Speaking at the Australian Governance Summit on Tuesday, he said, “Our investors have a responsibility to understand our business and engage with the substance rather than indulging activists whose purpose is not to improve the performance of our corporations but to undermine them.”
Goyder’s comments come after one in four shareholders at a Qantas AGM in October 2019 backed a resolution to stop deporting asylum seekers; and before he heads for a similar showdown with environmental activists at Woodside Petroleum, where he also serves as chairman.
In his keynote speech at the Sydney event, he said climate change is the biggest issue raised to him by investors, and conceded major companies do have a responsibility to engage and manage its risks.
However, Goyder added, “Increasingly AGMs are being hijacked by activist shareholders who in some instances have only one share and require 100 shareholders to put up resolutions.
“The issues these activists raise are material issues that we already take seriously.
“Our retail shareholders who have invested a significant part of their personal savings shouldn’t be sidelined at AGMs so activists can pursue their political agenda.
“I’d make the point here that large investors need to stand behind companies they invest in and not side with simplistic AGM resolutions.”
In October, a resolution from the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility called on Qantas to review the potential “reputation, financial and legal” risk of providing transport for the Department of Home Affairs to deport asylum seekers.
Goyder responded by saying it was “impossible, and frankly inappropriate” for the airline to determine the legal status of people being deported.
He will soon have to face a showdown with Woodside shareholders who have pushed two climate-related resolutions.
Goyder is one of Australia’s most influential businessman, topping AFR Magazine’s corporate power list in 2017, and also chairs JDRF Australia, the West Australian Symphony Orchestra, and the Channel 7 Telethon Trust.