CAN’T STOP ME NOW
Commissioner vows to stay on and finish job of inquiry into unions
THE royal commission into trade unions will continue today after former judge Dyson Heydon rejected calls for him to stand down over alleged pro-Liberal bias.
But unions will step up efforts to derail the inquiry with a possible appeal, and Labor will move a motion in the Senate on Monday asking Governor-General Peter Cosgrove to remove Justice Heydon.
Justice Heydon rejected unions’ calls for him to stand down over revelations he planned to speak at a Liberal fundraiser arranged by a lawyers’ group, saying the “fairminded lay observer” would have no reason to think he was biased against Labor.
Justice Heydon said there was no proof he was a Liberal Party supporter.
“It was not to be a political speech. It was to be a legal speech,” Justice Heydon said in a 67-page statement.
“It could not rationally be concluded that a person who merely agrees to give a legal address at such an event, albeit organised by the lawyer branches of the Liberal Party, believes in, supports or has any relevant association with the Liberal Party.”
As he rejected union arguments that emails between the organisers and himself showed he knew the event was a Liberal fundraiser, Justice Heydon revealed he did not use a computer.
“I have no computer and all email correspondence is sent and received by my personal assistant,” he said.
“Indeed, it is notorious among the legal profession that I am incapable of sending or receiving emails. The consequence is that I read emails only after they have been printed out for me.”
After taking just over a week to decide on his future after calls from the ACTU, CFMEU and AWU for him to stand down, Justice Heydon yesterday read a statement dismissing the applications.
The royal commission will resume today in Sydney to continue an investigation into the ACT branch of the CFMEU, with further hearings scheduled this month in Brisbane to investigate its activities in Queensland. Unions are now seeking legal advice about a possible appeal.
ACTU national secretary Dave Oliver said Justice Heydon’s ruling was unacceptable.
“The reality is that this royal commission is now terminally tarnished and any recommendation out of this commission can’t be taken seriously in respect of looking at it in terms of the political nature of this commission,” he said.
This royal commission is now terminally tarnished and ... can’t be taken seriously ACTU national secretary Dave Oliver
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten issued a sternly worded statement last night indicating Labor would continue its push to discredit the inquiry.
“Australians can see right through this, they know bias when they see it,” Mr Shorten said. “Everything the royal commission says may as well have a Liberal Party logo stamped on it.”
As Labor plans a motion in the Senate when Parliament resumes next week to dismiss Justice Heydon, Mr Shorten said: “Tony Abbott’s failure of leadership means it’s up to the Parliament to act.”
Attorney-General George Brandis sprung to Justice Heydon’s defence, describing him as “one of the most intelligent people in Australia”.
“Dyson Heydon is to the union movement in Australia today what Tony Fitzgerald was to police corruption in Queensland in the 1980s,” he said.
“There’s no doubt Bill Shorten and the Labor Party and union leaders like Dave Oliver and others will do everything they can to throw muck at this royal commission because they have so much to fear. It is time they got out of the way and let the truth be known.”
Mr Shorten yesterday refused to discuss a special union slush fund used to assist his fight against Anthony Albanese for Labor’s leadership.
His deputy, Tanya Plibersek, proudly stood by Labor’s intertwined relationship with the union movement in the wake of revelations Mr Shorten received $5000 in undisclosed donations from a union slush fund called IR21, associated with the National Union of Workers.
Senior Cabinet minister Scott Morrison accused Labor of using the union movement as an ATM.
Dyson Heydon is to the union movement in Australia today what Tony Fitzgerald was to police corruption in Queensland in the 1980s
Senator George Brandis