A campaign designed to reignite the issue of marriage equality at the federal level of politics has been started by the BRW rich lister who runs Canberra Airport.
Owned by Terry Snow, Canberra Airport began the campaign last night with the airport lighting up its new terminal in rainbow colours and installing a sign with #WeCanDoThis as the slogan.
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Snow was an accountant with Coopers & Lybrand before becoming a highly successful investor.
His major coup was the decision to buy the 99-year lease on the rundown Canberra Airport back in 1998 from the federal government.
Since then Snow has invested significant amounts of money in a complete redevelopment of the airport.
Snow’s #WeCanDoThis campaign is the latest example of business people using their wealth to drive a public agenda.
A Canberra Airport spokesperson said the idea behind the week-long campaign was to highlight the “deep, positive and strong” feelings of the vast majority of the community in support of marriage equality.
Owner Terry Snow’s son Tom Snow, who married his husband in New Zealand last year, had the honour of flicking on the rainbow lights at the airport last night.
“It is because it matters so much that we are here tonight lighting up this magnificent building in rainbow colours, and saying to our elected representatives: this issue should be above politics,” Tom Snow said.
“Have a conscience vote. Listen to your gay and lesbian constituents and the majority of Australians who support equality. Have the courage to do what is right. Together, we can do this.”
Snow told SmartCompany this morning the response so far had been “amazing” – even overwhelming.
He says his family’s business aligned itself with the majority of Australians who supported same-sex marriage and also the idea of “common sense fairness”.
“We set out to take a mild stand; the family has very clear value of giving people a fair go,” he says.
“We’ve set out to create a positive campaign, do the right thing.”
Snow still thinks it’s an achievement for the business to have launched the campaign, noting the airport had received threats that it would be boycotted for supporting marriage equality.
“It wasn’t an easy decision, there is a more vocal minority against marriage equality,” he says.
However, he is encouraged to see a number of businesses across Australia come out in support of marriage equality, especially blue chip companies.
“It is important to have people standing out with you,” he says.
Snow says it’s not the first time Canberra Airport has campaigned for issues that matter in the community or acted as a good corporate citizen in working with community groups.
He says the airport’s first campaign was about sustainability and green buildings.
“We built Australia’s first green-star rated building, we did that with Green Building Council of Australia,” Snow says.
He says the business has also shown leadership in urban design and creating a “living city” in Canberra.
“We set out creating the Living City Plan, we did that with whole group of architects to revitalise city centre in Canberra, and again it was doing it with the community,” he says.
Snow’s advice to small business owners thinking of using their wealth and position to drive a public agenda is to know your values and do your research about who the groups are that are for and against the idea.
“You’ve got to have strong values and stand up for what you believe in,” he says.
Snow says the airport worked with marriage equality groups before launching the campaign but also understood the community sentiment towards it.
“Poll after poll shows increasing number of Australians supporting marriage equality while the ordinary community just believes in fairness,” he says.