Regardless of Heydon’s ruling, voters may make their own ruling that Labor and the unions are involved in a reprehensible stitch- up, an act of “whatever-it-takes” desperation to taint Heydon and distract voters from the work of the royal commission.
It follows from yesterday’s explosive revelation in this newspaper, by Michael Pelly, that Marcus Priest — a former staffer of Labor’s legal affairs spokesman Mark Dreyfus — kicked off the firestorm of attacks by Labor and unions against Heydon for accepting, and then declining, to give a legal lecture, the Sir Garfield Barwick address, to a group of Liberal lawyers.
Voters are entitled to ask: did Priest dig for dirt on behalf of Labor and its union paymasters? It looks that way, given Priest rang Chris Winslow, the publications manager of the NSW Bar Association, about an April alert from the association about the Sir Garfield Barwick address.
Following that 5.30pm phone call on August 12 by Dreyfus’s ex-staffer, Labor and the unions unleashed vicious attacks on Heydon.
Their desperation to destroy the royal commission would mean trying to destroy the reputation of one of Australia’s finest judges.
Waving the Barwick invitation in the air, Priest’s former employer Dreyfus demanded Heydon step down. Tony Burke labelled Heydon biased, conflicted and incompetent. Jason Clare labelled him a “bag man” under protection of parliamentary privilege. This defamation was politics at its lowest and most crude. Clare was forced to withdraw his slur.
The unions staged their own chorus of confected indignation. Dave Oliver, secretary of the ACTU, demanded the royal commission be shut down. Australian Workers Union national secretary Scott McDine voiced “no confidence” in the commission, claiming the Liberal Party had a “two-for-one” offer in Heydon running the royal commission and drumming up funds for Liberal coffers. Tony Sheldon, boss of the Transport Workers Union, demanded a refund of legal fees.
Dave Noonan, the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union’s national construction secretary, tried frantically to impugn the evidence given to the royal commission. He would do that. The most damaging evidence heard by the royal commission concerns the CFMEU. Evidence before the commission has seen two ACT officials from the militant CFMEU charged with assault. And that’s in addition to commission recommendations against 66 union and ex-union officials, including possible criminal charges against more CFMEU henchmen. Labor and union claims that the commission is a political witch-hunt have been obliterated by evidence.
Hence the desperation politics. Bill Shorten and his union paymasters are engaged in a bare-knuckled political cage fight to discredit Heydon and the royal commission. It’s their only hope of distracting Australians from damaging facts about a union movement that funds Labor and pulls its policy strings. Just weeks ago, after appearing before the commission, where his credibility as a witness was questioned, the Opposition Leader’s leadership was in free-fall.
Come the next election, what will voters remember? That a royal commissioner accepted, then declined, to give a legal lecture to a group of Liberal lawyers? Or will they remember the evidence of union thuggery, illegality, fraud and secret payments, including an undisclosed $40,000 to Shorten to fund his 2007 campaign?
Whatever the decision next week, voters will cast the final judgment on Labor’s frantic attempt to lynch Heydon.