Tuesday, 1 September 2015

So the Commissioner did not "recuse"

himself - that is remove himself as the Royal Commissioner presiding over the investigation into corruption within the union movement.
There were the expected howls of rage in the media and on social media sites like Twitter. Guardian readers were fuming - as was to be expected. Readers of the Australian were a little more circumspect. The unions who brought the action denounced the decision and said they would consider what to do next - most likely action in the Federal Court.
All that was to be expected. I downloaded Heydon's judgment and read it. I have not read it thoroughly as it runs to more than 200 pages but I did read his reasoning and conclusions. He said all the things I expected him to say.
Without reading it - he admitted to not having read it - the Shadow Attorney-General still wants him to go. There will, he tells us, be a motion in the Senate to get the Governor-General to remove Heydon "because the Prime Minister won't". 
It would have been wiser not to admit that you have not read something as important as this before taking action. It would also be wiser not to display such ignorance of the law.
Royal Commissioners have great powers. They cannot be removed by the politicians of the day. The Prime Minister cannot remove the Commissioner. Yes he could call the Commissioner in and ask him to go but he could not force him to go. The only person who could sack the Commissioner would be the Governor-General. He won't.  There is no reason to remove him.
The unions claim the Commission is a "politically motivated witch hunt". Perhaps that is true but, even it is true, the unions would be wise to let it run its full course. Unions represent less than 20% of the workforce. It was once much more than that. Despite that unions still effectively run the Labor Party agenda and they are likely to go on doing it. That's not going to change because it would involve too many people voting against their own interests. If the union movement, as it claims, has nothing to hide then surely the best thing is for it to show that before the Commission? That would do far more harm to their opponents than trying to close the Commission down. 
Trying to close the Commission down and making such a huge fuss about it suggests that there is something to hide  - something that has yet to come to light. It will be something far worse than skimming money off superannuation funds to fight political campaigns  - surely illegal? If there is something worse to be uncovered then the Commission needs to continue more than ever. Using more of the funds of members to try and bring down the Commission to cover up wrongdoing would be despicable.


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