Dyson Heydon not stepping aside from unions royal commission

Dyson Heydon outside the royal commission in Sydney. Photo: Anna KuceraTHE ACTU is considering its legal options after the embattled Dyson Heydon refused to remove himself from the helm of the royal commission into trade union corruption.

And as unions consider another legal challenge, Labor has also seized on the decision, confirming it will seek to have Mr Heydon removed by way of a petition to the governor-general in the Senate next Monday.

After his own ruling on his own fate was delayed for almost a week, the former High Court justice on Monday took just five minutes to deliver a comprehensive rejection of claims of bias brought by unions, stemming from his acceptance to appear at a Liberal Party fundraiser.

‘‘I have considered all the submissions. In my opinion, the applications must be dismissed,’’ Mr Heydon said on Monday.

He then adjourned the commission until 10am on Tuesday.

In a 67-page explanation, Mr Heydon effectively ruled there was no ‘‘rational basis’’ for concluding apprehended bias.

‘‘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 wrote.

Mr Heydon, who had claimed he was not aware the function was a fundraiser, had initially been expected to reveal his decision last Tuesday, which he then put off until last Friday, and then until Monday.

But he maintained that even if had known it was a fundraiser, applications brought by the ACTU, CFMEU and AWU ‘‘did not show that a fair-minded lay observer might conclude the commissioner, a highly experienced lawyer and former judge, would not be able to put out of his mind any extraneous or irrelevant matters and deal with the issues impartially’’.

He said many distinguished judges had delivered legal lectures to organisations with political affiliations ‘‘without qualms on their part and without being subject to any reasonable criticism’’.

There was no factual basis to support the argument that a fair-minded observer might believe Mr Heydon had intended to raise funds or assist in the raising of funds, or to generate support for the Liberal Party.

The decision was immediately slammed by the unions, with ACTU secretary Dave Oliver saying the commission was ‘‘terminally tarnished’’.

The unions had argued Mr Heydon’s acceptance of an invitation to speak at the Sir Garfield Barwick Address – a Liberal Party fundraiser – from which he subsequently withdrew, gave at least a perception of political bias.

‘‘Any recommendation out of this can’t be taken seriously in respect of looking at it for the political nature of this commission,’’ Mr Oliver told reporters outside the commission HQ in Sydney.

There was no lawyer for the ACTU at the commission when Mr Heydon announced his decision.

‘‘Commissioner Heydon has sat in judgment on himself and found in his own favour,’’ Mr Oliver later said in a statement.

‘‘What we are left with now is a multi-million 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.’’

But Attorney-General George Brandis, who recommended Mr Heydon for the post, said the suggestion there was anything irregular about the fact Mr Heydon made the ruling himself ‘‘is entirely ignorant’’.

‘‘I recommended Dyson Heydon who I know by reputation because I knew that he was a person of absolutely unimpeachable personal integrity, and a black-letter lawyer virtually in a class of his own in this country,’’ Senator Brandis said.

He rejected the notion that Mr Heydon was biased, describing him as a ‘‘man who has no politics’’.

Labor said, however, it will pursue Mr Heydon.

‘‘We’re certainly going to be taking forward in the Senate next Monday … a petition to the governor-general to remove Dyson Heydon from this office,’’ Mr Dreyfus said.

‘‘Tony Abbott has failed to act to remove Dyson Heydon from Tony Abbott’s own royal commission. It’s now left for the parliament to act.AAP

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