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Senator Stephen Conroy exposes Heydon's full links to the Liberal Party

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(Art by John Graham / @JohnGrahamArt)

For those who didn't hear Senator Stephen Conroy's speech exposing Dyson Heydon's full links to the Liberal Party in the Senate on Tuesday this week, IA thought our readers would be interested to hear them, given these links appear to be unreported elsewhere.

THE SENATE: MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE

Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption

SPEECH Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Senator CONROY (Victoria — Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (16:31): I rise to support the matter of public importance. I was pleased to hear that Senator Canavan believed that there was some behaviour that was absolutely unacceptable. Let me read to you the following quote:

"Probity may be affected by conscious bias for or against a particular litigant or class of litigants. The law compels judges who have such a bias or may reasonably be thought to have such a bias to disqualify themselves ..."

That is a quote from none other than Justice Dyson Heydon from a 2002 address to an assembled gaggle of his right-wing friends. Pithy and accurate, Justice Heydon was striking at the heart of the values that underpin our society's approach to justice. But Justice Heydon and the royal commission over which he presides have departed so far from these values that their respective roles are now untenable. Furthermore, Mr Abbott's $80 million dollar royal commission has been exposed as the cynical, political Star Chamber that it is.

In February 2014, Mr Abbott repaid the favour after he himself was sent to Oxford on a Rhodes scholarship by none other than former Justice Heydon. But Mr Abbott did keep an election promise, one of the very rare examples of him doing so. He took the necessary steps to establish a royal commission that would be specifically tasked with pursuing his political opponents. There was no pretence about this at all. Its whole job was to denigrate former Prime Minister Julia Gillard and to attack, undermine and smear the current Leader of the Opposition. The terms of reference were fatalistic. They implicitly accused the trade union movement of engaging in unlawful conduct and explicitly directed the royal commission to pursue particular unions. It was immediately clear to all that this royal commission would act as the Liberal Party's publicly-funded political dirt unit. Not satisfied with just having a little dirt unit in their press secretaries gathered together under their Whip – not content with that – they wanted an $80 million plaything with coercive powers to smear their political opponents. This was a Star Chamber from the first day and it has been exposed again as a Star Chamber in the last few days.

Tony Abbott needed someone to head up this dirt unit. Enter Dyson Heydon. After a youthful appointment as a law professor, Justice Heydon was elected Dean of the University of Sydney Law School in 1978. His tenure in this role must surely have been successful, because one of his school's students at that time went on to become the Prime Minister of Australia, Mr Tony Abbott. In fact, as I said, Justice Heydon was lucky enough to examine the future Prime Minister in detail as he sat on the Rhodes scholarship committee that awarded Tony Abbott his scholarship. Surely the Prime Minister is eternally grateful for the privilege. Following a brief yet controversial stint as Justice of the New South Wales Supreme Court's Court of Appeal, Prime Minister John Howard appointed Justice Heydon to the High Court in 2003. Justice Heydon spent his 10 years on the High Court benches as a judicial activist, regularly dissenting from the moderate rulings of his colleagues and, in doing so, pursuing his right-wing ideologies in the minority.

His family has a longstanding relationship with the Liberal party. His father had even acted as an advisor to the Liberal Menzies government. So Mr Abbott had his man: a respected lawyer, an ideological right-winger, and a man whose family had enjoyed successive generations of Liberal Party patronage.

Senator Ryan: What did your dad do?

Senator CONROY: Pardon?

Senator Ryan: Blaming someone for what their father did?

Senator CONROY: Oh dear!

There are roughly 2,500 barristers in the state of New South Wales. Twenty five of these barristers operate from Eight Selborne Chambers in Sydney — just 25 out of 2,500. Eight Selborne had, surprisingly, been home to Justice Heydon and these 25 barristers and represented the most intimate of the legal fraternity. Despite the weight of chance stacked heavily against this small community of legal practitioners, three of these 25 who shared chambers with Justice Heydon have been awarded multimillion dollar contracts from the trade union royal commission, the most prominent of which, of course, is Jeremy Stoljar, who was appointed by Dyson Heydon as counsel assisting the royal commission. Mr Heydon knew that Stoljar would make a reliable deputy. They had long been friends. Heydon was such a keen supporter that he had gladly launched Stoljar's book in 2011.

As you would expect in such a murky world of patronage and jobs for mates, the government has been exceptionally keen to maintain the secrecy of payments to Heydon and his friends. While they have successfully hidden Heydon's fees behind the thin veil of commercial confidence, investigations by the Senate's committees have revealed that Jeremy Stoljar's pockets have been well lined by the royal commission to the tune of $3.4 million. While taxpayers are wondering what value they are receiving from this star chamber, Justice Heydon and his lavishly paid buddies, Mr Abbott and the Liberal Party are getting everything they have paid for. 

[Extended period of Government objections and wrangling removed by IA]

Senator CONROY: While the taxpayers are wondering what value they are receiving from Justice Heydon and his lavishly paid buddies, Mr Abbott and the Liberal Party are getting what they paid for. The Heydon royal commission wantonly ignores the standards that have been established and upheld by royal commissions before it — accepting hearsay, refusing objections and cross-examinations, double standards for different witnesses and even providing detailed briefings for the media. Dyson Heydon has overseen a royal commission totally failing principles of natural justice. They stand there and, as they have witnesses walking into the box, they start distributing to the press gallery, before the witnesses have even sat down or are handed it themselves, the documents that they are going to be cross-examined on. So the first time the witnesses get to see documents is as they are handed to the media. This is a star chamber that is about nothing more than helping this pathetic government get re-elected. This royal commission has been put in place, this star chamber, this quasi-judicial theatre, to smear and slander the Liberal Party's political opponents.

But Dyson Heydon's bias and partisan ways were finally exposed by the revelation that he had agreed to address a Liberal Party fundraiser — an absolute slam-dunk case. His claims that he was unaware that the event was a political fundraiser simply do not stand up to scrutiny. By his own admission, he received multiple pieces of correspondence that outlined the event's ties to the Liberal Party. The chair of a Liberal Party lawyer branch invited Mr Heydon to the event on 10 April 2014 and the email explicitly explained the relationship between the Liberal Party and the lawyer branch and the event itself...

[Time expired]

The original John Graham cartoon featured in the piece may be ordered from the IA store.

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