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Benz boss backs refugees

Words of support: Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific CEO Horst van Sanden has quoted his boss, Dieter Zetsche, during a speech at the Andy Warol/Ai Wei Wei exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria this week.

Aus Benz boss backs Zetsche's support of refugees at Warhol, Ai Wei Wei exhibition

9 Dec 2015

MERCEDES-BENZ Australia/Pacific chief executive officer Horst von Sanden has taken a political stance in support of refugees during a speech at the opening of the Andy Warhol/Ai Wei Wei exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria last night.

The German giant's Australian arm is a principal partner for the exhibition, which features work by Warhol and Ai Wei Wei, a controversial Chinese artist and activist that has been openly critical of his government's human rights record.

Mr von Sanden quoted sections of a speech made by his boss, Daimler chairman Dieter Zetsche, at this year's Frankfurt motor show, in which he declared his support for the hundreds of thousands of refugees pouring into Europe from war-torn Syria and neighbouring countries.

The event attracted 700 guests of Mercedes-Benz and its dealer network, and in his opening speech, Mr von Sanden touched on the ethical responsibilities of major corporations, which could be taken a swipe at fellow German car-maker, Volkswagen, and the diesel emissions scandal that is engulfing it.

“Art by its very nature challenges us, it informs us and it represents the values of the society we all live in,” he said.

“Companies with global operations have global responsibilities and central to this is collective understanding of right and wrong – regardless of the field we work in or the continent where we operate.

“Our company practices are based on the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Daimler is pledged to abide by and actively promote the principles of these Global Compacts in the areas of human rights, labour standards, environmental protection, and anti-corruption.” Mr von Sanden quoted Dr Zetsche's recent speech, and highlighted the fact that the company's top executive was born in Turkey.

“Australia is a multicultural dynamic society and I would like to share with you a few words that our Chairman Dr Dieter Zetsche said at the recent Frankfurt Auto Show, at the height of Europe’s refugee influx in late 2014.

“'Some people believe that immigration endangers a country’s future perspectives. I’m convinced that the opposite is the case. Taking in more than 800,000 people who need our help is undoubtedly a herculean task for Germany.

“'I believe that anybody who leaves behind their entire life is highly motivated to learn and to work here in order to build themselves a new life with us. These are exactly the sort of people we are looking for.'” In September, the federal government, under then prime minister Tony Abbott, committed to an additional 12,000 refugees impacted by the conflict in Syria and Iraq on top of the existing humanitarian intake of 13,750 for 2015-16.

In 1986, during the 100th birthday year of the invention of the automobile, Daimler commissioned Andy Warhol to produce a series of pictures documenting the history of the car from 1886.

The series was the last one produced by Warhol, which included 35 pictures and 12 large-format paintings using 20 selected Mercedes models.

MBAP has been a partner of the NGV for the past 10 years.

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