Mark Allaby

A senior executive of PricewaterhouseCoopers has resigned from the board of the Australian Christian Lobby after his firm faced pressure to sever his ties with the extreme religious lobbying organisation.

Last week Crikey reported that Mark Allaby, a senior executive for PwC, was listed as a director on the board of the Australian Christian Lobby, the group that is currently leading the charge for a vitriolic campaign against same-sex marriage and the Safe Schools Coalition.

Allaby’s position on the board of the ACL raised a few eyebrows given PwC’s support for LGBTI rights, and led to some complaining to PwC and Pride in Diversity, the LGBTI organisation of which PwC is a member. PwC last year was named top Australian employer for LGBTI people for the second year running by Pride in Diversity.

Allaby’s name was removed from the ACL’s website late last week, as well as from the organisation’s charity listing on the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission (ACNC). Australian Christian Lobby spokesperson Martyn Iles refused to confirm whether Allaby had resigned, telling Crikey he was “not in a position to comment”. Crikey has confirmed that following an investigation by his employer, Allaby has resigned from the board.

A spokesperson for PwC said that one in 10 of the company’s staff participate in board or advisory roles outside of PwC, but they’re not given a free pass to join any board they want:

“When it comes to employee participation on external boards, if a conflict arises between an employee’s board role and the best interests of PwC, we would request that they step down from that board”

Crikey understands although Allaby’s job title is “senior executive”, due to the way PwC is structured, he is not in the most senior 500 staff in the company.

Pride in Diversity told people complaining about Allaby that it stood by PwC as employer of the year because employee surveys conducted in the firm showed high levels of engagement, support and inclusiveness from the organisation. The group said employers could not police what staff do on their own time outside of work. It’s only where there is a conflict of values in the workplace where it would be an issue.

Intriguingly, Allaby was listed as a director of the ACL on its website and on ACNC documents. But according to ASIC documents seen by Crikey — both the ACL’s own ASIC documents and Allaby’s personal ASIC documents — he was never officially a director of the organisation. He continues to be a director of the Lachlan Macquarie Institute, however. This organisation was set up in 2014 to fund “post tertiary Christians considering careers in areas with influence on public policy”, i.e. the next generation of Lyle Sheltons.

The founder of that organisation is Nick Jensen, the man who rose to prominence last year after threatening to divorce his wife if same-sex marriage became legal in Australia.

Last night Shelton, who heads the ACL, appeared on Q&A arguing against same-sex marriage and the Safe Schools Coalition. Shelton, an advocate for holding a plebiscite on same-sex marriage, again warned that if same-sex marriage were to be made legal in Australia it could lead to another “stolen generation”. He also claimed transgenderism was “contested gender ideology”. When he was challenged on the contents of the Safe Schools Coalition lesson plans by one of its authors, Shelton insisted that the contents were unsuitable for high school students.

Labor this week is expected to attempt to bring on a vote in the House of Representatives for a bill to allow same-sex marriage to be legalised, to challenge Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s promise to the far right of his party to hold a plebiscite after the election. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten is marching in the Mardi Gras parade as part of the Rainbow Labor float in Sydney on Saturday, and he has said that the parade could be used to celebrate the legalisation of same-sex marriage this week if Turnbull abandoned his $160 million plebiscite plans.

Former prime minister John Howard, who, along with the support of Labor in 2004, enshrined a ban on same-sex marriage in the Marriage Act, told Sky News over the weekend that he would have preferred Parliament to have a free vote on the matter, but that Turnbull should honour his promise to undertake a plebiscite.