A lot of unreasonable people think Dyson Heydon is biased

Tony Abbott’s handpicked Royal Commissioner has, unsurprisingly, decided to stay on. This decision has produced a storm in the media with very little commentary supporting his decision.

The former High Court judge, who was hand-picked by Prime Minister Tony Abbott to run the commission, said that “in my opinion the applications” for his recusal “must be dismissed”.

Dyson Heydon has made the wrong decision by declining to stand aside

The decision of Dyson Heydon to remain as trade unions royal commissioner highlights a fundamental disconnect between the world inside the legal system and the real world outside it.

Given the “reasonable person” test, it’s amazing that so many unreasonable people are writing in our major newspapers.

Most laypeople will find it extraordinary that in this situation, the only person who can decide on the question of bias on the part of the Royal Commissioner, is the Royal Commissioner himself.

Given his lifetime in the law and his long career as a High Court Justice, you wouldn’t expect him to admit to bias.  But to argue that even the most senior of legal officers are unbiased is clearly nonsense.

Is Dyson Heydons reputation hopelessly compromised?
Is Dyson Heydons reputation hopelessly compromised?

The  judges of the Supreme Court of the US are clearly and publicly seen as being biased towards the  general philosophy of the political parties that appointment them. Some justices are socially progressive, some are socially conservative and many judgements, such as those on abortion, reflect this.

So we got the decision that we would have expected.

However, his decision to continue creates significant problems. Almost everybody, trade unionists, left-wing voters etc would agree that the corruption that is rife in the trade union movement and manifested in the activities of Kathy Jackson, Craig Thomson and Michael Williamson, needs to be stamped out.

Kathy Jackson: the odious face of union corruption
Kathy Jackson: the odious face of union corruption

Many people, even those with left leaning political views would view some of the activities of the CFMEU as being obnoxious in a democracy.

But now, the findings of the Commission will forever be tainted by the accusations of bias. These perception is a bias are linked to the fact that the commission is widely seen as being fundamentally politically motivated. In fact, many of its findings are probably free from political bias particularly those regarding some of the more odious members of the union movement.

But the good work at the Commission is likely to do will be forever overshadowed by the perceptions of bias around Royal Commissioner Dyson Heydon.

It’s a pity he wasn’t a big enough man to see this and stand down.

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