The Courier-Mail


Dyson Hey­don con­tin­u­ing to pre­side over the TURC is not the most de­sir­able out­come for the ALP, writes Dennis Atkins

- Dennis Atkins is The Courier-Mail’s na­tional af­fairs editor. Corruption · Politics · Crime · Liberal Party · Federal Court · Partido Laborista Australiano · Arbeidersparty · Julia Gillard · Bill Shorten · Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union · Canberra · Gough Whitlam · Health Services Union

TRADE union lead­ers had two pre­ferred out­comes from their le­gal as­sault on Royal Com­mis­sioner Dyson Hey­don and ended up with what they thought was sec­ond best.

In their dreams, unions wanted Hey­don to not only re­cuse him­self but force the Gov­ern­ment to shut down the in­quiry into cor­rup­tion and other malfea­sance in the af­fairs of in­dus­trial or­gan­i­sa­tions.

They are happy to set­tle for hav­ing Hey­don stay in the job, be­liev­ing he has been com­pro­mised and his com­mis­sion’s find­ings tainted.

In the longer game, the unions might not get what they’re wish­ing for.

Any­one who thought soberly about Hey­don’s ap­proach to the law should have ex­pected his rul­ing – ar­gued, as it was, on strict le­gal grounds with ev­ery word parsed to within an inch of its life.

It might not match the view in the street where peo­ple prob­a­bly don’t get the nu­ance be­tween an os­ten­si­bly in­de­pen­dent le­gal fig­ure and a din­ner or­gan­ised by an arm of the Lib­eral Party and how the lat­ter can­not in­fect the be­hav­iour or rep­u­ta­tion of the for­mer.

This means un­less a judge of the Fed­eral Court feels like let­ting his freak flag fly and slaps Hey­don down in any ap­peal or in­junc­tive mo­tion – highly un­likely if the unions go down that road – the royal com­mis­sioner is as good as glued to his seat.

Like­wise, if the La­bor Op­po­si­tion goes ahead with its his­tor­i­cal and hare­brained idea to have the Se­nate pe­ti­tion the Gover­norGen­eral to sack Hey­don, that won’t make first base ei­ther.

The bright sparks in the ALP who are con­sid­er­ing this can be thank­ful Gough Whitlam has passed away as he’d prob­a­bly take it as an in­sult.

Whitlam did more to demon­strate the il­le­git­i­macy of the Se­nate or any­one else usurp­ing the con­sti­tu­tional duty of the head of state to act on the ad­vice of ei­ther the whole Par­lia­ment or the ex­ec­u­tive. For mod­ern La­bor to mock the lessons of 1975 is gob­s­mack­ing.

So Hey­don will stay and get on – as he did yesterday – with his rock-lift­ing in­quiry into some of the darker corners of trade union ac­tiv­ity.

The ACTU, af­fil­i­ated unions and the La­bor Party will protest long and loud – and many will agree with them – about the com­mis­sion be­ing a po­lit­i­cal stitch-up but if the rev­e­la­tions about some union­ists con­tinue public opin­ion might take a broader view.

There have been as­pects of the com­mis­sion’s in­quiry that were un­nec­es­sar­ily po­lit­i­cal and oc­ca­sion­ally in­ex­pli­ca­ble. The pur­suit of Ju­lia Gil­lard was un­war­ranted and a fruit­less en­deav­our while the treat­ment of Bill Shorten – so far – had mo­ments that looked bad for Hey­don.

The ques­tion­ing of one­time Health Ser­vices Union boss Kathy Jack­son – sub­se­quently re­vealed as hav­ing mis­spent $1.4 mil­lion of mem­bers’ funds – was in­cu­ri­ous and kindly in­stead of the foren­sic work be­ing done in other courts.

The work of the com­mis­sion grind­ing on yesterday saw Hey­don and his coun­sel as­sist­ing Jeremy Stol­jar probe deeper into the ac­tiv­i­ties of the Con­struc­tion Forestry Min­ing and Energy Union in Can­berra.

Cor­rupt be­hav­iour, thuggery, in­tim­i­da­tion and car­tel-like oper­a­tions are com­mon in the ACT and the CFMEU links to the lo­cal Left wing ALP branch are be­ing ex­am­ined and ques­tioned.

The kind of dodgy deals


be­tween unions and em­ploy­ers re­vealed when the com­mis­sion looked into the Vic­to­rian branch of the Aus­tralian Work­ers’ Union have been known about in ACTU and La­bor cir­cles for decades but ig­nored.

The protests by the ACTU about un­fair and bi­ased treat­ment from the com­mis­sion would have greater strength if the peak body had taken union gov­er­nance and al­le­ga­tions of malfea­sance and wrong­do­ing more se­ri­ously over the years.

The ACTU has no record of be­ing proac­tive in act­ing against unions. The cor­rupt oper­a­tions within the HSU in two states were re­vealed by the media and fol­lowed up by the po­lice and Fair Work.

Dis­af­fil­i­at­ing the HSU was the least the ACTU could do.

Like­wise, the ACTU has known about the way the CFMEU – along with some other mil­i­tant unions – con­ducts it­self in bar­gain­ing and on work­sites but has never taken ac­tion.

This is why the on­go­ing work of the Hey­don royal com­mis­sion – with all its faults – will mean more down­side than up­side for the union move­ment and a La­bor Party with which it’s in­ter­twined.

There was some­thing for ev­ery­one in this week’s rul­ing by Hey­don about his own con­duct.

The Gov­ern­ment was able to say the unions were try­ing to hide cor­rup­tion, helped by their La­bor al­lies, while the ACTU could de­clare the com­mis­sion was tainted and com­pro­mised.

The longer game might set­tle less in favour of the unions. Aus­tralians have no tol­er­ance for rort­ing and cor­rup­tion.

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