A man of integrity? Dyson Heydon and his Trade Union Royal Commission

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The revelations about Dyson Heydon's links to the Liberal Party are just the latest in a long list of questionable activities by a very questionable Royal Commission, writes Peter Wicks.

THERE HAS BEEN a lot of discussion recently regarding the integrity of the Trade Union Royal Commission, and in particular the integrity of the Commissioner himself Dyson Heydon, with calls now for the Governor General to sack him.

This speculation regarding Heydon’s suitability to act as a Royal Commissioner into the union movement has come as details of his political dealings start to spew forth, like the last meal of a teenage boy after he and his mates discover a bottle of Jim Beam.

It is worth noting that this is not the first time I have written on the Commission's questionable integrity.

As as common knowledge the union movement is considered the industrial arm of the Labor Party in much the same way the mining industry and property developers are considered the Coalition cash register. It is vital therefore that any immensely expensive and taxpayer-funded inquiry into the Trade Union movement has the air of independence about it.

This Royal Commission clearly does not.

Dyson Heydon has had his independence questioned after he was found to be down to speak at a Liberal Party fundraiser and found to have been on a panel that awarded Tony Abbott his Rhodes Scholarship. What next? A Liberal Party member, possibly? I’m just waiting for someone to discover he is godfather to Abbott’s kids…

What I wanted to discuss today was my direct experiences with the Royal Commission and how the perception of integrity was, until now, something that was of the utmost importance.

During the Royal Commissions foray into the HSU, I was in attendance daily tweeting and observing from the media room.

Every morning upon arrival, if I had written an article the previous night, I was greeted by the Commission’s media spokesperson and liaison officer Adrian, who would comment on my reporting of the previous days events. Often, my tweets would be commented on also, as Adrian would always tell me the integrity of the Commission should be the most important consideration in any article.

Yes, Adrian was always quick to defend the integrity of the Commission and was clearly quite touchy about it. Don’t take this the wrong way though; I have a great deal of respect for Adrian and found him to be professional and considerate. However, he had a job to do and a Commission to protect, despite every member of the press openly agreeing that the Commission itself was a Liberal Party witch-hunt for which the public was picking up the tab.

Whilst in attendance at the Commission I witnessed and was involved in several instances that would bring the integrity of the Commission into disrepute, however as far as I am aware nothing has ever been done to address any of these issues.

One such event involved another mate of Tony Abbott.

One day in the lobby outside the hearing room there was an incident that was rather ugly. This incident involved Michael Lawler, vice president of Fair Work Commission and partner of Kathy Jackson. Mr Lawler was pointing his finger, and screaming abuse and threats, at two prominent members of the mainstream media to whose articles he had taken exception. The Commission was certainly made aware of this event and, despite the lobby having CCTV so the entire incident would have been covered, despite Lawler's obvious attempt to intimidate the media on behalf of a witness, as far as I am aware no action was ever taken.

On another occasion, as I reported on IA, myself and another member of the media were was approached in an alley outside the Commission by a clearly agitated union thug, Marco Bolano, who proceeded to get in our faces.

Most alarming, however, was that he proceeded to intimidate a female companion I was with at the time, taking photos of her with his phone, despite repeated requests not to and threatening her, saying:

“We’ll track you down..."

This was reported to the Royal Commission Security and we all gave statements, however I’m not aware of any action ever being taken. 

Later that day Bolano again followed us to lunch around the corner to intimidate us further. This was again reported to security however, once again, I heard nothing. The matter was also reported to NSW Police, to whom the restaurant where we had lunch were able to provide footage of the episode from their security camera’s however, yet again, nothing came of it. In fact, the Commission later denied any complaints had even been made.

The irony of being intimidated at a Royal Commission supposedly set up to expose this type of behaviour was not lost on me. Indeed, from my perspective, the Royal Commission seemed to be encouraging the behaviour it was supposed to be stamping out and, at the same time, actively covering up and concealing the behaviour it was set up to expose.

Another incident involved a tweet I posted relating to Kathy Jackson planning to attempt to force the Commission to remove the HSU’s lawyer from the proceedings as she had been in a sexual relationship with him.

Around 20 minutes later, I arrived at the Commission media room and was pulled aside and told I'd better be damned sure about what I had put in the tweet and may want to think about deleting it. I was told that the Commission was not to be made a circus, with commentary and speculation such as that without evidence.

About an hour later, the circus arrived, with Jackson proving my tweet correct in the hearing room and then doing a doorstop interview to talk about charity shags and sex in antique barber chairs.

Class and integrity combined.

Another striking example of the Commission's integrity came about when the Herald Sun published an “EXCLUSIVE” article, that had been clearly fed to them by the Commission. The article involved the despicable and horrific bashing of a female witness in a pub carpark. According to the original article published, this was related to the Commission proceedings and had photos accompanying it of CFMEU banners as well as bikies. The implication was obvious.

It turned out the incident was not related to the Commission, the CFMEU, or bikie gangs in any way shape or form. The article was later heavily amended but, once again, the Commissions integrity was dealt a crippling blow.

Now, suddenly, with Dyson Heydon himself being the biggest threat to the Commission’s integrity, the importance of that integrity is no longer high on the agenda, or he would not be still in the Commissioner's chair.

For Heydon, the decision has more at stake than just the Royal Commission's integrity, it holds to ransom his own integrity, career and legacy. The Commission’s integrity has, arguably, already been dealt a fatal blow and it is now in the process of a slow painful death. Heydon’s decision could put it out of it’s misery, but it certainly won’t be able to breathe life into this corpse-in-waiting.

Heydon’s career has been a long one and, in the eyes of many, a noble one. He now faces the decision of whether to step down as Commissioner with his reputation somewhat intact or risk his entire legacy for the undoubted pressure he is receiving from Tony Abbott — a prime minister many don’t expect will see out one term, let alone have a second one.

Dyson Heydon doesn’t come across as someone who would be willing to take such a huge gamble with this much at stake.

Here’s hoping that makes his decision a no-brainer. On Friday, we’ll find out.

Peter Wicks is an ALP member and a former NSW State Labor candidate. You can follow Peter on Twitter @madwixxy.

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