Andrew Thorburn was appointed CEO of AFL Essendon Football Club and his tenure lasted about 24 hours before he was forced out by the board. Thorburn was appointed to the task force to find a new coach for the team and a new CEO for the club. This task force appointed Thorburn as the new Essendon CEO1.
While this was extraordinary enough, when CEO of the National Australia Bank (NAB) he branded the push for a Royal Commission into the finance industry as unnecessary and potentially damaging1. This was as wrong as any statement could be. The Royal Commission was indeed damaging to the finance industry and that damage demonstrated that it was necessary because of their unconscionable behaviour.
The NAB’s Thorburn and chairman Ken Henry quit their positions after they were subject to scathing assessments in the report from the Banking Royal Commissioner Kenneth Hayne. Hayne said that after having heard from both men he was “not as confident as I would wish to be that the lessons of the past have been learned”. He added, that he “ thought it telling that Mr Thorburn treated all issues of fees for no service as nothing more than carelessness combined with system deficiencies … Overall, my fear – that there may be a wide gap between the public face NAB seeks to show and what it does in practice – remains”2.
While he was CEO of NAB, in 2014, Thorburn joined City on a Hill evangelical megachurch and was appointed chairman of the board and a ‘warden’ of the church1. This church calls abortion an “atrocity” equivalent to murder3. It also states that “euthanesia [sic] is wrong”, and it rejects voluntary assisted dying because “in Jesus we have eternal life, a life without suffering and pain and death”4. Really? Tell that to someone with terminal cancer. It also states “any sex outside of marriage is sexual immorality5, and that the “faithful are subject to persecution”6.
Given that Essendon is supposedly an ‘inclusive’ club, the beliefs of Thorburn’s church are at odds with that, and Thorburn was given the choice of keeping his position at the church or at Essendon. He chose the church. Of course, Thorburn then chose to make it about his religion, in saying “It became clear to me that my personal Christian faith is not tolerated or permitted in the public square, at least by some and perhaps by many,” and that “People should be able to hold different views on complex personal and moral matters, and be able to live and work together, even with those differences, and always with respect”7.
Of course, all sorts of other religious nutters (Sheridan, Comensoli) and right wing nut jobs from the Murdoch media (Kenny, Bolt) have come out of the woodwork to try to paint Thorburn’s resignation as intolerance of his religion. This, of course, is not the case. Thorburn was given the option and chose his church. If he had chosen Essendon, then he would likely still be its CEO.
One of the statements (see above) by Thorburn’s church is that the ‘faithful are subject to persecution’. This assertion only makes me laugh. Thorburn was the CEO of a huge company while he was a warden of his church, and probably earned more money in his tenure at NAB than I have earned in my whole working life. That is hardly persecution. It is not persecution that the religious fear, but irrelevance and ridicule which, for them, is fast approaching as religion rapidly declines in Australia8.
I suspect the attempt by the religious to play the victim is, in their minds, more attractive now that the Morrison government and its religious discrimination legislation are no more. This legislation was only ever about entrenching religious privilege and would have allowed the religious to discriminate against people of other faiths, homosexuals, unmarried couples and sundry others, and to allow them to continue with their hate speech9, 10.
Now that this legislation will not be there to allow their bigotries to be entrenched in our society, the religious are fearful that they will be looked upon as just another club with a dwindling membership of old and young fogies who long to be able to hate people with impunity, while they constantly rail against the modern world and its progressive acceptance of all sorts of people.