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Peter Dutton says big business is being bullied into supporting same-sex marriage

Australia's business leaders and biggest corporations are being bullied by activist groups into supporting same-sex marriage laws, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said on Friday.

Days after brewing company Coopers moved to head off a boycott of its products after Liberal MPs Tim Wilson and Andrew Hastie appeared in a video debating same-sex marriage reforms, Mr Dutton told Sydney radio host Ray Hadley that big corporations including Qantas were afraid of being targeted online by activist groups.

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Big business being bullied

Conservative Liberal MP Peter Dutton has stood up for big business, saying they're being bullied into supporting marriage equality after the Coopers beer boycott.

"We need to have the ability for both sides to be heard and we're in a politically correct age it seems, which I can't tolerate, and I think a lot of Australians are of the same view," he said.

Mr Dutton said he wanted a respectful debate on marriage equality, but added that publicly listed companies shouldn't take political stances and business leaders should not prioritise debating moral issues over running their companies.

"None of these business leaders are out there talking about the need for changes to the tax system, supporting the government's cut to company tax so they can employ more apprentices, more young Australians. They're offshoring their call centres."

He said if chief executives want to debate moral issues they should quit business and seek election.

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"If you want to become a politician, resign your job at $5 million a year, come on to $250,000, if they can tolerate that, and enter the political debate." 

"Become a politician." 

Business Council of Australia chair Jennifer Westacott this week joined with more than 30 high-profile company executives urging the government legislate for same-sex marriage.

Government ministers have criticised the initiative coordinated by Australian Marriage Equality, arguing it is a diversion from the nation's key economic challenges.

Executives including Qantas boss Alan Joyce, Deloitte's Cindy Hook, Commonwealth Bank chief Ian Narev, Australian Super chair Heather Ridout and KPMG's Peter Nash came together to sign the letter.

"This is a big problem for our country because if you have people who are afraid to speak out or afraid to remain neutral and I suspect some of these business leaders... are in that category," Mr Dutton said.

"Some of these businesses are concerned that if they don't sign up that they will be subject to a campaign which will be run online by GetUp! and others... and that is going to impact on their business.

"I don't know how we can tolerate that position."

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told radio 3AW business leaders should lobby Opposition Leader Bill Shorten to support the government's proposed plebiscite.

"We have a commitment on a plebiscite which we took to the election, so that's our policy. So the way to ensure that gay marriage is allowed is to have a plebiscite," he said.

Equality Campaign executive director Tiernan Brady welcomed support from Australia's business leaders.

"Marriage equality is about real people, our family members, friends and also our work colleagues," he said.

"It is wonderful to have the support of so many business leaders who first and foremost want to ensure that everyone who works for them is entitled to the same dignity and standing in their lives."

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