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.
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.
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.
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.