Queen’s Birthday Honours: Gay airline boss honoured for ‘service to equality’ after equal marriage campaign

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce

An airline boss has named to the Order of Australia in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list, despite facing attacks for his outspoken support for equal marriage.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce, who is openly gay, has been vilified in Australia in recent weeks after becoming the unlikely figurehead of the equal marriage movement.

After declaring the company’s support for equal marriage, Mr Joyce faced a backlash encouraged by the anti-LGBT lobby. The exec was abused by government ministers and trashed in the media – and the negative coverage led one angry Christian pensioner to attack him with a lemon meringue pie.

But despite having his name dragged through the mud, Mr Joyce had the last laugh, as he was awarded one of the country’s highest honours on the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

Alan Joyce

The exec was named a Companion of the Order of Australia, for “eminent service to the aviation transport industry, to the development of the national and international tourism sectors, to gender equity, inclusion and diversity, and to the community, particularly as a supporter of Indigenous education”.

Mr Joyce said: “I’m truly honoured by this award, which also recognises the work of thousands of people who make Qantas an institution that Australians can rightly be proud of.

“I’ve been lucky enough to spend all of my professional life working in aviation and the majority of that at the national carrier. It’s a privilege to promote this country to the world through transport.

“Aviation can be such a force for good because it’s ultimately about connecting people, and that encourages a diversity of ideas that makes Australia the kind of place it is today.

“The notion of a ‘fair go’ has to be one of the most important Australian values, and it’s been a big driver behind my work promoting equality. We’re lucky to live in a very accepting, open society and we need to keep championing the need for everyone to share in the same opportunities.”

In a recent interview with Australia’s GQ Magazine, Mr Joyce said he would not be intimidated by anti-gay activists.

He said: “When you’ve been in this job as long as I have, you get a thick neck on things. You have to be very hard nosed in your approach and your view and not be intimidated by anybody.

“What’s important is that people understand what we’re saying — which is that parliament should just get on and do something about marriage equality, most Australians are fed up with this and just want it to happen.”

The business leader also responded to a homophobic slight from government minister Peter Dutton, who had told Mr Joyce to “stick to his knitting” instead of calling for equal marriage.

Mr Joyce said: “We’re very happy with sticking to our knitting, but our knitting involves being part of the community, and our knitting involves us being outspoken on issues like equal marriage.”