Dyson Heydon says addressing Liberal Party fundraiser does not mean he supports the Liberal Party

Dyson Heydon arrives at the royal commission on Monday. Photo: Ben Rushton
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SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – AUGUST 31: Dyson Heydon arrives at the Royal Commission into Trade Unions on August 31, 2015 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Ben Rushton/Fairfax Media) Photo: Ben Rushton

Dyson Heydon arrives at the royal commission on Monday. Photo: Ben Rushton

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – AUGUST 31: Dyson Heydon arrives at the Royal Commission into Trade Unions on August 31, 2015 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Ben Rushton/Fairfax Media) Photo: Ben Rushton

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – AUGUST 31: Dyson Heydon arrives at the Royal Commission into Trade Unions on August 31, 2015 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Ben Rushton/Fairfax Media) Photo: Ben Rushton

Dyson Heydon arrives at the royal commission on Monday. Photo: Ben Rushton

Unions weigh appeal as Labor shifts attack to ParliamentComment: Heydon saves his own skinAnalysis: Heydon finds ‘fatal’ flaw in unions’ argumentAnalysis: Heydon shows why judges are a breed apart

Dyson Heydon has refused to step down as head of the royal commission into trade union corruption because the Liberal Party event he agreed to address was a “legal event” in nature.

The former High Court judge, who was hand-picked by Prime Minister Tony Abbott to run the commission, said that “in my opinion the applications” for his recusal “must be dismissed”.

Mr Heydon said the  Sir Garfield Barwick Address was a legal event in memory of Australia’s longest serving High Court chief justice.

He said it could not be rationally argued that a person giving a legal address at such an event believes in or supports Liberal Party politics.

“The mere fact that a person agrees to deliver a speech at a particular forum does not rationally establish that the person is sympathetic to, or endorses the views of, the organiser of that forum,” Mr Heydon said in his decision.

Unions had not  “demonstrated, as distinct from merely asserting, how any such predisposition, even if it might be apparent to the fair-minded observer, was logically connected to the actual issues for determination in the commission”.

The unions had also “failed to establish that the fair-minded observer might reasonably conclude that I could not deal with the issues for resolution on their merits”.

Mr Heydon said a reasonable bystander would be likely to think that a person with a legal background would have the capacity to go to the point of an email and be “scrupulous” in reading emails.

But because the email did not relate to commission business but to a possible outside activity, “there was no point in my looking at it”.

The contention that he had read the email containing the invitation to the Liberal Party event was “fanciful”.

“Having glanced through the email on the front page, noting the time, date and place of the dinner, and noting that I was to be the guest of the organisers, it was not necessary for me to read the attachments explaining how those who were to pay would pay,” Mr Heydon said.

“That subject was of no concern to me. Further, the fair-minded observer would recognise that I was busily engaged in [royal commission] work.

“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.”

A resolution of the question as to whether he should step aside as commissioner had been delayed twice since unions lodged an application 10 days ago for Mr Heydon to disqualify himself from the politically charged inquiry.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions argued that he should recuse himself because of a perception of bias after he agreed in April last year to give the keynote address at a Liberal Party event.

Unions said Mr Heydon’s acceptance of the invitation to speak at the Sir Garfield Barwick Address  suggested an appearance of bias in presiding over the  royal commission. The unions claim he only withdrew from the event after being warned of possible media interest by counsel assisting the royal commission Jeremy Stoljar, SC.

Sir Garfield was also a Liberal MP.

Mr Heydon said the unions had not established that he knew the event was associated with the Liberal Party or that it was a Liberal Party fundraiser.

References in the email headers that the event was associated with the Liberal Party were also dismissed because they did not establish the nature of the address as a Liberal event or a fundraiser.

Mr Heydon’s final decision to cancel his appearance at the event did not necessarily suggest that his attendance would have given rise to an apprehension of bias.

“Sometimes a decision-maker chooses not to do something, not because to do it will give rise to a reasonable apprehension of bias, but because the decision-maker for sensible reasons of risk management and self-preservation wishes to avoid the attacks of the suspicious and the malicious,” he said.

“That is the construction a fair-minded observer would put on the matter.”

Federal Attorney-General George Brandis described the reasoning in Mr Heydon’s decision as “a tour de force in its explanation”.

The ACTU will now consult with its affiliates to decide whether it will try to challenge Mr Heydon’s decision in the Federal Court.

But ACTU secretary Dave Oliver said he did not yet know what its next step would be. Unions would likely wait for the outcome of a push within the Senate to remove Mr Heydon.

Mr Oliver said Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s royal commission was now “terminally tarnished and Commissioner Heydon’s decision to dig in and stay despite the overwhelming perception of bias confirms this.

“What we are left with now is a multimillion-dollar royal commission that is tainted – everything that has happened until now and everything that will happen in the future is stained by these events,” he said.

“Deciding to speak at a Liberal Party fundraiser demonstrates a serious lack of judgement and the way in which the commission has secretively handled this entire process has raised more questions than it has provided answers.

“It doesn’t pass the sniff test. The simple fact is that you do not attend a political party event if you do not support, or are not sympathetic to, the cause”.

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Napthine’s swansong- Denis did it his way

RELATED: Denis Napthine resigns as South West Coast MPRELATED: FarewellTerry Mulder as veteran MP calls timeRELATED: Dan Tehan’s tribute to Napthine Former premier Denis Napthine shakes hands with reporters prior to his resignation speech at State Parliament on Monday morning.
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REGRETS? Denis Napthine has a few but, as Frank Sinatra famously warbled, too few to mention.

The former premier fronted the television cameras in Spring Street on Monday morning, announcing he would vacate his spot on the leather green benches and trigger a by-election in his South West Coast electorate.

Unlike the early-evening drama of his ascendancy to the premier’s office and the subdued defeat that was 2014 election night, the veteran MP was in a cheery yet reflective mood as he faced the final curtain in the opposition rooms at Parliament House.

In his swansong press conference, Dr Napthine singled out the South West Cancer Care Centre, the region’s air ambulance, expansion at the Port of Portland and Princes Highway passing lanes as his local achievements.

Signing the National Disability Insurance Scheme for Victoria was one of his key achievements as premier, he said, while the controversial East West Link was noted down as unfinished business.

“It was a very hard decision,” he told The Standard prior to his official announcement. “I love what I do. I loved every day of being a local member.

“I love constituents coming in with issues – whether it be a housing issue, whether it be an issue in terms of their local business.

“(For instance, I was) out at the Macarthur Bowling Club to talk about toilet facilities at the bowling club. You can’t get more down-to-earth than that. I still remember when I was a young member, getting to officially open the new indoor toilets at the Macarthur school. So early in my career I was involved in toilets at Macarthur and towards the end of my career, I’m still involved in toilets at Macarthur.”

Denis Vincent Napthine is no stranger to the slings and arrows of outrageous political fortune.

After graduating from the University of Melbourne, he worked for the State Agriculture Department as a veterinarian. The Winchelsea boy was interested in politics from his school days but started to make waves in the Liberal Party when he was working in Hamilton.

Elected as Member for Portland at the 1988 state election, he became Community Services Minister following the 1996 re-election of the Kennett government.

On his 61st birthday he was elevated to the pinnacle of Victorian power. By his 63rd birthday, he was evidently contemplating life beyond Spring Street.

“If I was premier, I would have stayed through,” he said. “I would have stayed the full four years if I was re-elected premier. I probably would have served three years as (leader) then stepped down (as premier) and (then) stepped down as (local member) at the 2018 state election.

“In the circumstances, when you go into opposition, it’s always a time to rebuild, to re-energise, to redevelop your policies. I think it’s in the best interests of south-west Victoria to have someone as a local member who is part of the future rather than someone who is part of the past.”

Clear to all was how much Dr Napthine enjoyed being premier. It was a career aspiration he thought had passed him by following his turbulent period as opposition leader, picking up the pieces following Jeff Kennett’s departure at the 1999 state election.

The South West Coast MP was satisfied serving as Regional Cities Minister under his mate Ted Baillieu. However, renegade Frankston MP Geoff Shaw precipitated a series of events which resulted in Mr Baillieu tendering his resignation and Dr Napthine heading to Government House for a meeting with Governor Alex Chernov.

“After question time, Ted asked me around to his office,” Dr Napthine said. “Now Ted and I are close friends. He said to me that he felt that he had lost the support of the party and that he was going to step down as premier.

“I remember being in his office for several hours that afternoon, urging him to stay on, to talk him out of that position. But Ted was determined. He wasn’t demonstrative, but when he made his mind up, he made his mind up. Towards the end of that discussion he said, ‘who should take over?’ and then he virtually said ‘would you put your name forward’?”

It was with those few words to his old mate that cemented Dr Napthine’s spectacular comeback to the Liberal Party leadership – this time in government.

“And I hadn’t even thought about it because I’d expected Ted to continue,” he said. “(Ted) said it would be better for him, he would feel comfortable if I took over. At 7 o’clock that night I was elected as leader.”

The former vet’s appointment resulted in an immediate boost in opinion polls. The flagging Baillieu government was reinvigorated under Dr Napthine’s leadership. However, Mr Shaw remained a constant irritant with controversy over the East-West Link and ongoing industrial disputes eroding support ahead of the 2014 state election.

“I firmly believe we were a good government,” he said. “I, as premier, gave it my very best shot. I’m particularly proud of what we achieved in that time – whether that be signing the NDIS agreement and getting its headquarters in Geelong, whether it be saving SPC Ardmona (or) the biggest tax change in Victoria’s history with the Fire Services Levy, a fair and more equitable property based system, (and) at the same time maintaining a triple-A credit rating.”

Dr Napthine has called Port Fairy home in recent times after many years living in Portland. He said he would remain within the region during his retirement.

Many former premiers have been appointed as ambassadors or to other plum roles over the years but Dr Napthine said he had no such ambitions at this time.

“It was an honour and privilege to become premier – one I never thought possible,” he said. “I mean, I grew up as one of 10 children on a family farm at Winchelsea and went to the local Winchelsea state school. For somebody from a very humble background, on a farm in country Victoria, to become premier of the state says a lot about our democracy and our political system.”

RELATED: Old foe Andrews bids a fond farewellRELATED: Neoh seeks to replace Napthine as MP

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Sydney-based entity eyes off Redbank Station

HUNTER MP Joel Fitzgibbon says there appears to be nobarriers to a Sydney-basedentity acquiring, andre-opening, the controversial Redbank Power Station.
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Redbank Power Station pic Newcatle Herald.

Operated by Redbank Energy and fuelled by beneficiated dewatered tailings (BDT), or waste coal, from the Mount Thorley Warkworth mine, the plant closed in October last year leaving 39 full-time employees out of work, and its future was placed in the hands of Receivers Korda Mentha.

From being taken to the Land and Environment Court in 2001 by environmentalists who claimed it did not meet its own standards, to a ruptured ash slurry line which led to theleaking of industrial pollutant onto the Golden Highway, the project has failed to deliver the outcomes promised in relation to efficiency and environmental benefits.

But now this new proposal to restart the power station is anticipated to deliver base load biomass power generation to NSW and, according to Redbank Energy Limited (REL),“it will be one of thefirst large-scale non-hydro renewable electrify generation sources in the state”.

The acquisition is proposed to occur through a subsidiary of REL and the directors say the consortium has been selected by the receivers as the preferred bidders and will now proceed on an exclusive basis to negotiate final sale documentation.

Mr Fitzgibbon says he has been in talks with a number of interested parties in recent months, including the preferred bidders, and says this is “very good news”.

He says the consortium is involved in providing waste services in Western Sydney and has some quarrying interests.

At this stage, REL estimate re-opening the will seeapproximately 40 full-time positions re-instated and in turn this will lead to 150indirect jobs.

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Canning byelection: Teresa van Lieshout’s dancing her way into politics

Canning candidate Teresa van Lieshout gets her message across with the help of AC/DC and BodyRockers. Photo: YouTubePerennial political candidate Teresa van Lieshout has released a bizarre and hilarious YouTube clip of herself grooving around her lounge room to announce her candidacy for the Canning byelection.
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Ms van Lieshout, who will run as an independent in the upcoming byelection on September 19, starts the video saying she is contesting the “Canning byelection following Don Randall’s death”.

She then cranks up AC/DC’s Thunderstruck before flashing cardboard signs ­- reminiscent of Bob Dylan’s classic video clip Subterranean Homesick Blues – with words stating her election policies.

Ms van Lieshout then jumps, gyrates and poorly mimes the songs of the BodyRockers (I Like The Way You Move) and ABBA’s (Voulez-Vous) during her almost 12 minute video.

The Hilton resident’s video is one of the most awkward clips to watch since former Family First candidate Henry Hengcame up with the YouTube video idea, inspired by South Korean popstar PSY’sGangnam Style.

It’s not the first time Ms van Lieshout has taken to YouTube to announce her political campaign.

Prior to the Vasse byelection in 2014, she released a clip ofherselfin a black bikini fishing on a beach.

Ms van Lieshout was famously dumped by the Palmer United Party for not toeing the party line, 12 days after she endorsed by PUP for the seat of Fremantle in the 2013 federal election.

She went onto represent the Australian Protectionist Party in the election and polled just 0.24 per cent of the vote (205 votes).

Ms van Lieshouthas previously run unsuccessfully in several elections including the 2013 state election in the seat of Willagee, where she polled 1.8 per cent of the vote (361 votes) as an independent.

WATCH: See the full Youtube video below.

Meanwhile, Notre Dame University political expertMartin Drumsays despite the Melbourne Cup-sized field for the Canning byelection (12 candidates are running) it’s just a two horse race between Labor and the Liberal Party.

Dr Drum doesn’t think either of the major parties would benefit from the dozen candidates running.

“You will get a slightly bigger informal vote, given the potential for errors in voting is greater,” he said.

“You get a bit more leakage from the major parties but not a lot more. It’s more about the quality of a third party candidate/s, not the number.

“A high-profile independent, particularly one with strong local credentials could have had an impact, but there’s no such person in this field. Nevertheless the preferences in byelections often don’t favour the government, so a slightly higher vote for minor parties and independents could assist Labor.”

Dr Drum said the Liberal Party could lose the seatdespite Labor needing a 12per cent swing to win.

“It’s at the upper end of expectations, but definitely possible,” he said.

“Byelections can produce large swings, particularly if the government is on the nose.”

He also expects Prime Minister Tony Abbott to face serious challenges from within his party, if the Liberals lose the byelection.

“A loss in Canning would make it extremely difficult for him to see the year out,” he said.

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In Phuketwan case, Reuters supports media freedom – but from a distance

Bangkok: Reuters won a Pulitzer, the world’s top journalistic award, for its coverage of Rohingya boat people from Myanmar with the help of Thai journalist Chutima Sidasathian.
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The international news agency hired Ms Chutima to open her contact book and arrange interviews for Reuters journalists doing the research that won the 2014 award.

For years Ms Chutima and Australian journalist Alan Morison had led coverage in Asia of the plight of Rohingya in their small on-line news site called Phuketwan that they produced on the Thai resort island of Phuket.

But Reuters has played down Ms Chutima’s role in the award-winning series since she and Mr Morison were sued by the Royal Thai Navy for re-publishing one paragraph from the Reuters series.

The company that employs 60,000 people world-wide has also distanced itself from the court proceedings that could see Ms Chutima and Mr Morison jailed for up to seven years when a court delivers its verdict in the case on Tuesday.

Reuters did not send a reporter or company representative to the three-day trial in July despite that its paragraph was at the centre of the case.

Mr Morison, 67, a former senior editor on The Age, said Reuters has “let the little guys take the rap.”

The verdict to be delivered in a Phuket court has ramifications for media freedom and focuses attention on the role of so-called “fixers” and interpreters hired by foreign correspondents, often in conflict and disaster zones.

They are usually local journalists who often receive no credit and little payment for their often dangerous and stressful work and are often left to deal with the ramifications of contentious reporting after correspondents that hired them have flown home.

Mr Morison said by “ignoring our case Reuters has acted like a US marine walking past a mugging.”

“Chutima’s intimate knowledge of the Rohingya story saved the Reuters journalists years of work,” he said.

A Reuters spokesman acknowledged the role that local journalists like Ms Chutima play “in assisting international news organisations like ourselves in accessing information” but claimed her role was limited in preparation of the series.

“As part of writing out story, we asked Chutima to assist in arranging appointments for our journalists as part of our news gathering,” the Reuters spokesman said.

“She did not act as a Reuters journalist or stringer and her contribution to the story was limited to arranging these appointments,” he said.

The spokesman said Reuters stands by the “fairness and accuracy of our Rohingya coverage, support the principles of a free press everywhere in the world – and the rights of journalists to go about their jobs without fear or hindrance in reporting the truth.”

A Royal Thai navy captain initially filed a criminal complaint against Reuters and two of its journalists over its Rohingya coverage.

But the navy has not pursued the case against Reuters as Ms Chutima and Mr Morison were left to defend the Reuters paragraph that quoted a people smuggler saying “Thai naval forces” usually earn money for spotting Rohingya boats or turning a blind eye to them.

A key defence argued by Ms Chutima and Mr Morison is that the indictment was erroneously translated from “Thai naval forces” to “Royal Thai Navy.

They argued there are multiple naval forces in Thailand.

Mr Morison said he doubts he would survive in Thailand’s chronically overcrowded jails if he is convicted but decided to stay in Thailand to fight the case with Ms Chutima in the interests of press freedom.

“We remain extremely concerned about the outcome but hopeful that we’ll be found not guilty,” Mr Morison said.

“Anything less than a not guilty verdict would be bad for freedom of the media both in Thailand and internationally,” he said.

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