Dyson's Choice

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Abbott's Captain's Picks like Bronwyn Bishop and Dyson Heydon have earned him the title of Captain Chaos. An 8-10 per cent swing at the Canning by-election will usher in the end of the Abbott experiment which historians will refer to as "Amateur Hour", writes Bob Ellis.

AFTER DYSON HEYDON, intervening, warned Shorten that he was at risk of being seen to be “lacking credibility as a witness”, I asked him thereafter day after day in my blog to say which of Shorten's statements were incredible, or withdraw his assertion.

He did not, of course. He was aware that Shorten had performed very well, succinctly answering 902 questions in perhaps 5000 words, with a clarity and wit that had helped his cause.

So an impression of long-winded validity had to be manufactured and Heydon manufactured it, in an interruption to proceedings one might expect in a trial of an Underbelly figure. Shorten had to be seen to be mendacious, fudging, untruthful and to imply this without evidence, of course, was bias.

It was bias that could be seen to have been purchases at at a very high price, by Howard, who had made him a High Court Judge, and he had lived well on a high wage; and by Abbott, who gave him three million or so to be a Royal Commissioner. That sum is in the vicinity of $28,000 a week.

It is known he identified as a Liberal, and that the Garfield Barwick Lecture had a resonance to it — Barwick having directly advised John Kerr that he could, if he wanted, sack Gough Whitlam, and to have run the case that ended Chifley's bank nationalisation and brought down by this tactic his government.

It was not yet known what he might have said at the lecture in praise of Barwick that was not contemptuous of Labor, or of Labor's affiliate, the union movement, now that his Commission had so brazenly gone after Julia Gillard, and had megaphoned charges that yet might be brought against Shorten, that party's present leader.

There was also his early connection with Tony Abbott, whom he was said to have assisted to Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship, though his qualifications for that honour were flimsy, and leaned heavily on his record as a sportsman and athlete. Abbott might have felt the need to reward him with $4,000 a day, or he may not.

It is likely Hayden will declare himself to be blameless and money will be spent by unions appealing to a higher court — a good deal of money. There is no way he will say about himself that he even gave the impression of bias by agreeing to speak at a function at which money was to have been solicited that would fund Liberal Party campaigns.

He has been a waste of public money and his appointment has been a scandal, and Abbott's failure to sack him as grave an error as his delay in removing Bronwyn Bishop.

The Government will fall because of it and, after an eight or ten per cent swing at the Canning by-election and the Abbott Experiment comes to an end, be labelled by some historians as "Amateur Hour".

Things will move quickly from now on and there will be, I would guess, a Turnbull, Robbie or Smith government by September.

Things will move.

Many IA readers will be aware that Bob is suffering from as serious illness. If you'd like to help, you might like to consider making a contribution by subscribing to his blog, Table Talk, here.

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