The Courier-Mail

Hey­don’s de­ci­sion to con­tinue is cor­rect


THE furore sur­round­ing trade union Royal Com­mis­sioner Dyson Hey­don has been a tri­umph of in­nu­endo over sub­stance, and should now be put to bed once and for all.

It has been a messy dis­trac­tion from the work of a com­mis­sion con­duct­ing an ex­haus­tive and long-over­due in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the cor­rupt con­duct of sec­tions of the trade union move­ment in Aus­tralia. To have the process de­railed at this late stage – the com­mis­sion is sched­uled to de­liver to the Gov­ern­ment its fi­nal re­port in De­cem­ber – would be a trav­esty.

The re­ac­tion of the union move­ment and the La­bor Party to news that Mr Hey­don had ini­tially ac­cepted but then de­cided not to at­tend a NSW lawyers’ func­tion with Lib­eral Party brand­ing was as over the top as it was shrill.

Shock, hor­ror, se­nior ju­di­cial fig­ure agrees to ad­dress a group of lawyers? Or as Mr Hey­don put it: “How does agree­ing to give a public ad­dress to a gath­er­ing as­sem­bled by the chairs of two lawyer branches in­di­cate sup­port which en­ables an in­fer­ence that one of the of­fend­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics (of ap­pre­hended bias) ex­ists?”

La­bor and the unions have been tren­chantly op­posed to the com­mis­sion from its in­cep­tion, not be­cause of any bias, but be­cause their some­times murky deal­ings are in the crosshairs. What bet­ter way to thwart it than to smear and nob­ble the in­quisi­tor?

Mr Hey­don is a le­gal mind of im­pec­ca­ble cre­den­tials and vast ex­pe­ri­ence. The for­mer pro­fes­sor of Law at Syd­ney Univer­sity (the youngest ever to achieve the po­si­tion), Queen’s Coun­sel and High Court judge is – like his ju­di­cial peers – more than ca­pa­ble of putting aside any per­sonal views, con­duct­ing a hear­ing and test­ing ev­i­dence on its mer­its.

The con­fected hys­te­ria over his speak­ing en­gage­ment at the an­nual Sir Garfield Bar­wick ad­dress is sim­ply an at­tempt to dis­tract at­ten­tion from the very real heat that the in­quiry has ap­plied to sec­tions of the union move­ment, its links with the La­bor Party and also the past con­duct of La­bor leader Bill Shorten.

Never mind the murky deal­ings, stan­dover tac­tics and al­le­ga­tions of out­right fraud that have been un­earthed so far, in­stead at­tack the man bring­ing these in­stances of malfea­sance to light.

Never mind that the com­mis­sion’s work has so far seen about 30 peo­ple re­ferred to var­i­ous agen­cies for pos­si­ble crim­i­nal charges and some 50 breaches of civil and crim­i­nal law iden­ti­fied.

Never mind that the com­mis­sion’s in­terim re­port found that the pow­er­ful, La­bor-af­fil­i­ated CFMEU some­times “acts in wil­ful de­fi­ance of the law”, as well as de­tailed ev­i­dence of death threats, ex­tor­tion and black­mail.

For La­bor and the unions, smear­ing the mes­sen­ger and dis­tract­ing at­ten­tion from un­savoury deal­ings is far more im­por­tant than ac­tu­ally con­fronting the can­cers within their own ranks.

As Mr Hey­don stressed yesterday, the terms of ref­er­ence for the royal com­mis­sion “seek not to de­stroy unions or ob­struct their pur­poses, but to see whether they have been ful­filled and to see how they might be bet­ter ful­filled in fu­ture”.

Aus­tralia’s two mil­lion union mem­bers should be aghast at the out­right fraud in the Health Ser­vices Union, and nu­mer­ous in­stances of thuggery, slush funds and pos­si­bly crim­i­nal be­hav­iour un­cov­ered by the com­mis­sion else­where, and welcome its work in help­ing to clean up the wider move­ment. Unions may ac­tu­ally end up stronger, more ac­count­able and rep­re­sen­ta­tive of their mem­bers as a re­sult.

Mr Hey­don has made the right de­ci­sion to con­tinue with his work.

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