In a speech to the Brisbane Mining Club, the former resources minister said corporations had a moral obligation to helped defend the nation.
Canavan, whose senate spot is up for election at the next poll, was dumped from his ministerial portfolio after backing Barnaby Joyce in a National Party leadership brawl that was won by Michael McCormack.
He said Australia was facing threats that were similar to the pre-World War II era when the then BHP boss Essington Lewis planned to stockpile raw materials against Japan.
“By 1936, Lewis, in cooperation with Holden and Orica, formed the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation. By 1937, they were making planes at a factory in Melbourne,’’ Canavan said. “Eventually, the Australian-designed Wirraway warplane would be manufactured there.
“An unremarked vulnerability of our nation now, compared to then, is the distinct lack of evident patriotism of our corporate sector.
“I would gamble that you are more likely to find rainbow flags flying in our nation’s corporate offices than Australian flags.
“I believe that some of the timidity of Australia’s leaders is that they have become too distracted by the pied piper of social media.
“Like our corporate offices, there are more rainbow flag emojis, than Australian flag emojis, on Twitter. Yet social media is a fake version of Australia.
“We need our corporate leaders back on Team Australia to help defend this country and all the benefits it has provided our businesses. We need a new era of business leaders willing to unashamedly fly our flag and defend all the good that it represents.
”What we need though is more of these people to publicly shout their love of country so we can remove the unwarranted, social-media-driven stigma of being patriotic.’’
He said the defence of the nation was at least as important as the rights of same-sex attracted Australians.
“Indeed, defending Australia is the only way that minority groups will continue to enjoy the unapparelled rights they enjoy in modern Australia. The Chinese Communist Party is not particularly fond of homosexuality.
“There is much talk in the corporate sector about the importance of environmental, social and governance principles. An ESG approach seeks to put principles over profit. Likewise, there is a case now for a new principle.
“If companies are expected to prioritise the environment over profits, why shouldn’t they prioritise patriotism over profits too?’’
He said the risks and consequences of China triggering a conflict in our region were much greater than any impact of climate change, especially to those Australian businesses heavily reliant on iron ore for profits.
“All Australian companies have benefited from the generosity of the Australian Government over the past year. I don’t expect companies to pay back JobKeeper directly, but indirectly there is a moral obligation for Australian companies to be part of a NationKeeper program that sees them invest in industries that can strengthen Australia’s defence capabilities,’’ he said.
“I would love to see an Australian mining company get back to steel making and buy it. They may not make lots of money but they would be doing something more vital for our nation than that.
“Others could help build a coal-fired power station to at least somewhat match the 97 coal-fired power stations China is currently building. If Australian companies are happy to make money selling coal to China, why shouldn’t some of the profits help build reliable power in Australia too?
“Why can’t our superannuation funds get together and create a consortium to buy back the Darwin, Newcastle and Melbourne ports from Chinese investors?’’Jump to next article