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Wednesday 19 August 2015

4 reasons why Dyson Heydon should stay as TURC commissioner

Fresh from the successful scalp of Bronwyn Bishop the Media/ALP pack are at it again. This time the target is Dyson Heydon, the ex High court judge now leading the Trade Union Royal Commission(TURC). Universally acclaimed as a man of integrity he is now being hounded out of office. The next few days will prove whether this mass attack is successful.

But irrespective of the outcome, is this attack reasonable? Would his removal be just and in the best interests of our country or would it reward and thereby encourage and legitimize such unseemly political tactics as the new normal in Australia's political discourse.

Much has been said and written on this so I am sure everyone is familiar with the core facts. I will restrict my comments to make just four points.
  1. There is no 'Perception of bias'
  2. A political leaning does not disqualify DH from fulfilling his role
  3. There is no down-side in keeping DH in his role 
  4. There is a serious downside in removing him from his role

There is no 'perception of bias'

There is no evidence that DH has exhibited any bias at all. In fact no one is arguing that he has or even that he is likely to. All argument is that there is a 'perception of bias'.
ALP and many in the media argue that 'perception of bias' is a sufficient criterion for his removal.
However the loudest calls come from those who do not apply this rule universally. The case of Gillian Triggs comes immediately to mind. In that case the argument was not even about a perception of bias but what was argued to have been demonstrated bias. Those who argued that Triggs should remain in her job but today argue that Heydon be removed are doing so for reasons other than potential 'perception of bias'.

ALP MPs are simply arguing out of self interest trying to stop the TURC as they see it as politically damaging given their close Union allegiance. Their colours were shown even before Dyson Heydon was appointed to his role, labeling the TURC as political witch-hunt, and they have not let up ever since. Their calls are certainly tainted.
As for the journos, they should explain their different stance themselves. It certainly looks like they are simply exposing their own political leanings.

Calls from those who are themselves biased must be dismissed.

A political leaning does not disqualify DH from fulfilling his role

A vast majority of thinking Australians have a political leaning. They vote in elections for one of the parties and they carry their leanings into their work and their private lives. So too do lawyers, police, teachers, judges and even royal commissioners. Why would we expect any judge not to have a political leaning?. 

Every day Judges, especially High Court judges are expected to rule on matters which may have some political impact. Yet we trust our judges, especially our High Court judges to make their rulings impartially, dependent only on the evidence presented and in accord with the laws of the land.

So why should anyone expect DH not to have a political leaning? Such leanings cannot rule him out as royal commissioner. Indeed if it did then no person could serve as a royal commissioner as no one is free of such leanings.
 Moreover, past High Court judges and Royal Commissioners have remained in their roles even after they presented speeches at party events. This is not even the case with DH, as he withdrew from the event.

There is no downside in keeping DH in place

There is no downside in keeping DH in his role because the TURC is the first step in a process which will have thorough parliamentary and legal scrutiny.

The TURC is gathering evidence on Union Corruption. The evidence will form the basis of a report, which will result in many Union officials facing criminal charges. Some have already been charged and some thirty have been named, who are likely to face charges. The evidence against individuals will be revisited in a court of law, where it will be weighed and considered. 

The final report of the TURC will no doubt make a series of recommendations regarding the introduction of new laws around Union governance.  The recommendations will also be weighed and considered by the government and will be debated by parliament.

So DH can continue to fulfill his role as TURC commissioner, irrespective of perceived or even actual leanings, without invalidating any of its findings.

There is a serious downside in removing him from is role

At the same time there is considerable and serious downside if DH does not continue to lead the TURC. 

You don't have to go past the hysterical calls for his resignation from the ALP to gauge the success of the commission to date. The TURC has brought to light corruption at the highest levels of many Unions (AWU, CFMEU, HSU etc.) and has named some thirty individuals who will in all likelihood face charges. No doubt much more is to come. 

It has been acknowledged by most commentators that DH has done an exemplary job to date.  While it has been argued that a new commissioner could be appointed, inevitably there would be a loss of momentum and who knows if the new commissioner would have the same level of success that DH has already demonstrated.

A further downside of removing DH from his role, would be to reward the 'shock and awe tactics' of the Media/ALP alliance. This contemptible political tactic is a new unwelcome entry into our social order. It works by confecting outrage over some issue, in this case the cancellation of a planned talk, and amplifying it through a compliant media into a political storm. Rewarding such tactics only encourages their use and debases our political and social discourse, and therefore should be strongly resisted. 

Finally, the removal of a high respected ex High Court judge without a 'just' cause would tarnish the exemplary record of a respected Australian. This is simply unethical.

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