Sunday, 23 August 2015

Commissioner Dyson Heydon

has gone off for the weekend to consider his situation. (For those of you in Upover there is a furore at present over whether there is "bias" or "an apprehension of bias" over his conduct in respect of accepting an invitation to give a lecture allegedly affiliated with a political party when he is conducting a Royal Commission into the conduct of the union movement.)
The Commissioner is in a no-win situation on this one. If he recuses himself then people won't say there was an apprehension of bias. They will claim "see, we told you he was biased. We knew the Royal Commission was a witch hunt.) If he does not recuse himself then they will continue to scream "bias".
If  he does not recuse himself then the union movement will take the matter further. It will eventually go to the High Court. The judges there will have to sit in judgment on a former member of their own ranks. If they find against him then his career will be in tatters. If they find for him the unions will still claim "bias". They will have to accept the umpire's decision but they will criticise it. It will, they claim, damage the High Court.
And of course this is precisely what the union movement is hoping for. They are hoping that, in all the legal wrangling people will forget why the Royal Commission was established and what it has already uncovered. They are hoping the criminal investigations will be forgotten. They are hoping that the media will side with them and that nobody will ask the question, "What have you got to hide that it is so important to feel a need to close the Commission down?"
There have also been demands for the Prime Minister to sack the Commissioner. He can't. The Commissioner is appointed by the Governor-General (in his role as the Queen's representative) and only he can sack the Commissioner. He would go to the Prime Minister (and perhaps the High Court) for advice. If he went against that advice then there would be a constitutional crisis in line with the one in 1975.
Equally it is not a simple matter to appoint another Commissioner in his stead. I do not know if it is possible to appoint a second Commissioner to work with him at this late stage. If it is that may be a solution - but not one the union movement would be happy with. 
A staunch unionist told me a couple of days ago, "We've got him. There's no way he can continue now."
If they succeed then it will be a serious blow to the rule of law. It will immeasurably strengthen the hand of the trade union movement. There are some people who believe this would be a good thing. 
My own personal belief is that there is no bias and no "reasonable person" - that "man on the Clapham omnibus" - would believe that accepting an invitation to speak at a lecture given annually which anyone is free to attend (and many from all sides of politics do) should be seen as bias. The Commissioner may, of course, decide otherwise.
I will admit to my own bias here. I think I once mentioned elsewhere on this blog that one sunny Sunday morning there was a knock at our front door. Two men wearing stood there and "advised" me that my letters to the editor in respect of a certain union related matter were "unacceptable". I was not even a member of the union movement. Perhaps I should have felt flattered that they apparently believed my letters would have so much influence that they felt the need to offer the "advice".
But if they feel the need to do that to someone who merely writes a mildly critical letter or two on an irregular basis,  they must be desperate to shut the Commission down.
I hope they don't succeed but they will certainly keep on trying.


Southern Gal said...

it certainly reads as if the Unionists have jerry rigged this whole speech event to be able to get him to resign the commission which is totally against them. such corruption - appalling.

catdownunder said...

I don't doubt they will keep trying. Even some unionists I know are expressing concern.

Anonymous said...

I am hoping it has backfired ... at least in part.
More people are now talking about the dirty deeds already uncovered by the Royal Commission. and are wondering just how much more will be uncovered if it continues, and continue it must to clear out the remainder of the dirty deeds.
If it doesn't continue, I think the union movement and their political friends have been linked in such a way that will dirty both parts of the partnership. The ALP effort to sully the reputation of a newly retired soldier who is standing for parliament has also brought more criticism of the ALP and Union, and support for their opponents.