Workplace equality ‘good for business’ – Kirby

Businesses which failed to support sexual equality in the workplace would lose staff, customers and profits, retired High Court Judge Michael Kirby has warned.

Mr Kirby, 74, Australia’s longest serving judge, outlined his case to members of the Brisbane Gay and Lesbian Business Network last night.

“Being an equality employer is not only the right thing to do, it’s good for business,” he said.

“It’s good for the loyalty of your staff, and it is appreciated by straight staff as well as the gay staff. And it’s appreciated by customers.”

Mr Kirby, who has lived in a gay relationship for the past 44 years, said gay and lesbian households controlled up to $10 billion of disposable income.

“If you behave in a discriminatory fashion, people will target you and will not deal with you,” he said.

Mr Kirby claimed large companies and federal government departments had a better record on equality than smaller businesses and state and territory departments.

The former judge also argued that churches involved in businesses which received public funds, including schools, hospitals and aged care homes, should be subject to anti-discrimination laws.

But he refused to be drawn on questions about the constitutionality of gay marriage legislation.

President of the Brisbane Gay and Lesbian Business Network, Tyrone Shandiman, said staff should be able to be open about their sexuality at work.

“Employers could better encourage people to be open in the workplace, rather than encouraging the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy, which has been pretty common for professionals in many businesses.”

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