Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption

I also rise to speak on this matter of public importance. I will fully defend the professionalism and the impartiality of Dyson Heydon AC, QC. The senator opposite said that the royal commission had significant problems. I think the significant problems that have been identified are those affecting the union movement and corrupt union bosses across Australia. The issue that the Labor Party has with Justice Heydon is not any allegations about impartiality; it is the corruption and the badness that has been taking place in the union movement over a number of years. The royal commission has done vital work to uncover questionable dealings by union bosses. Criminal charges have been recommended against at least three of the most senior officials of the militant construction union the CFMEU. No less than four people have been arrested in association with the dealings of the CFMEU thanks to the work of the royal commission. A series of unions have been implicated in secret slush fund scandals that have finally come to light. We should not forget that the Leader of the Opposition, a secretary of the Australian Workers Union, traded away the penalty rates of low-paid workers, had his union receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in unexplained payments and failed to disclose over $40,000 donated to his political campaign by a company with which his union was dealing. Of course, he remembered this hours and days before his own appearance before the royal commission.

The Labor Party and their paymasters in the union movement have been engaged in a desperate attack on the royal commissioner. Labor and the unions are desperate to bring down Justice Heydon because of the work he is bringing to light. He is shining sunlight into the nefarious activities of various elements of the trade union movement. The ACTU has claimed by media release that the commission is untenable and that the commissioner's actions are an example of bias. Yet, when given the opportunity to bring a claim of bias to the royal commission, they prevaricated. They clearly do not know whether they have enough evidence to even argue a bias case, let alone win a case. I would like to read from the media statement of the President of the Law Council of Australia, Duncan McConnel:

The public attacks on the commissioner being played out through the media are unacceptable and damage the basis on which tribunals and courts operate.

He went on to say:

The person who sits as a royal commissioner is entitled to the same respect, inside and outside of the inquiry, as a judge in court.

In this case, Mr John Dyson Heydon AC QC is a highly regarded former judicial officer. They concurred that the proper place for an application is the commission itself, yet the Australian Council of Trade Unions cannot decide whether it has grounds to make one.

What I think we should do is have a look at the career of Justice Heydon in terms of what a brilliant legal mind we have here. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Sydney. He was a Rhodes Scholar for New South Wales in 1964. He graduated with a Master of Arts and a Bachelor of Civil Laws from Oxford University. He was admitted to the New South Wales Bar in 1973. He was a professor of law at age 30 and a QC in 1987. He was Dean of the Sydney Law School. He was appointed by a Labor Premier, Mr Bob Carr, to the New South Wales Court of Appeal. He was a former judge with the High Court of Australia and he was appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia. Justice Heydon is one of the most respected jurists in Australia. The unfortunate and unacceptable attacks that the Labor Party and their allies are throwing at Justice Heydon in this mud fest are a sad indication of their own lack of belief and their own lack of certainty about the allegations that are coming out of the royal commission.

What is also interesting is that sometimes the word hypocrisy is thrown about this chamber—I am unsure about the correct term and whether it is unparliamentary—but Labor party members have been involved in organising their own legal lectures at which serving judges have spoken. Now they are claiming, hypocritically, that Commissioner Heydon's decision not to attend a similar function organised by the Liberal Party proves bias. Their events include Justice Kirby delivering the Neville Wran lecture, established by the Labor Party, while a serving High Court judge. In that speech he noted that he has delivered lectures associated with the Liberal Party as well. Luke Foley, the New South Wales Labor politician, delivered the lecture this year. Justices Kirby and Gordon delivered the Lionel Murphy memorial lecture on separate occasions which were initially funded by financial grants from Labor governments. This is very similar the Garfield Barwick lecture, which Commissioner Heydon was asked to deliver and which commemorates the contribution of a former Attorney-General who became a High Court judge. The Australian Society for Labor Lawyers—and that sounds like a fun bunch of people, doesn't it?—is lawyers who are sympathetic to the Labor Party or members of the Labor Party and has had papers presented to it by Justice Michael Kirby while in the New South Wales Court of Appeal in 1984; Mary Gaudron while as a High Court justice in 1987; Michael McHugh while in the New South Wales Court of Appeal in 1987; the ACT Chief Justice and Chief Magistrate in 1988; and Justice Spender of the Federal Court in 1985.

When Labor get up here and attack Justice Heydon, it is clear that they have failed to look in their own closet in terms of their own corporate, political and legal history before they have made the attacks on Justice Heydon. The real reason that Labor are attacking Justice Heydon is the work being undertaken by the royal commission. For those listening at home I have a top 10 list of interesting developments that have come out of the royal commission. In the remaining two minutes and 40 seconds I have, I hope I get to go through the top 10 concerning developments that have come out of the royal commission. This will give an indication of why Labor and their paymasters in the union movement are concerned about the good work—the impartial work—that has been undertaken by Justice Heydon.

We found out: (1) in Victoria, Comanchero bikies were employed as debt collectors in the building industry; (2) CFMEU officials Brian Parker and Darren Greenfield consorted with underworld crime figure George Alex, whose friends and colleagues included the leader of the Rebels bikie gang—a former Comanchero—and ISIS recruits Khaled Sharrouf and Mohamed Elomar; (3) construction company Boral suffered a 75 per cent reduction in its market share after refusing to comply with the CFMEU's unlawful demands; (4) the private details over 300 construction workers were leaked by the construction industry super fund Cbus to the CFMEU; (5) John Setka abused and threatened workers; (6) the ACT police arrested a former construction union organiser and previous Labor Party sub-branch president, Fihi Kivalu, after evidence to the commission that he had demanded tens of thousands of dollars in payments from tradesmen in return for getting work. (7) officials of the HSU pressured their staff to cheat online right-of-entry tests in the names of their organisers. (8) the Australian Workers Union added workers to its membership roll without the knowledge or consent of those workers; (9) the Australian Workers Union arranged to have a super fund pay its own assistant secretary $93,000 for 2½ days work; (10) the Australian Workers Union received hundreds of thousands of dollars in unexplained payments from series of companies.

But it is actually the top 11—I did miss out Bill Shorten. Bill Shorten, the leader of the Labor Party forgot that when he was running for election that $40,000 was expended on his behalf in payments to his campaign manager. And they are the real reasons why Labor is going over Justice Heydon—it is revenge. Labor know they have been caught out and they want to have revenge on the commissioner who caught them out in terms of the skulduggery and the dirty deals that have been done for years by the Labor Party and the union movement.