Royal Commissioner Dyson Heydon has refused to step down from his role and has dismissed all applications put to him by unions.
Mr Heydon made the announcement on Monday amid allegations of perceived bias, after accepting an invitation to speak at a Liberal Party function, the Sir Garfield Barwick address.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said Mr Heydon “judged himself because Tony Abbott failed to act”.
“Tony Abbott’s failure of leadership means it’s up to the Parliament to act,” he said.
Dave Oliver from the Australian Council of Trade Unions has said that the commission is “terminally tarnished”.
“Any recommendation out of this can’t be taken seriously in respect of looking at it for the political nature of this Commission,” he told reporters on Monday.
“… This is a highly charged political Royal Commission and the question we ask or the question that Dyson Heydon had to determine was is there a perception of bias for him attending a political fundraiser? We are still of the view there is.”
In his published reasons for staying on amid allegations over the Sir Garfield Barwick address, Mr Heydon stated that “that I have no computer and that all email correspondence is sent and received by my personal assistant”.
“The consequence is that I read emails only after they have been printed out for me,” he said.
“On 12 June 2015, the coordinator [of the Sir Garfield Barwick address] sent me an email… I did not read the attachments.”
In the 67-page document, Mr Heydon said that issues of fundraising associated with the invitation were irrelevant to the argument put forward by the unions, adding that:
“It could not rationally be concluded that a person who merely agrees to give a legal address at such an event, albeit organised by the lawyer branched of the Liberal Party, believes in, supports or has any relevant association with the Liberal Party.”
“The concession by the applications that nothing could be said about the political leaning of the speaker at the 2014 Sir Garfield Barwick Address significantly undermined the applications’ argument,” he added.
Attorney-General George Brandis described Mr Heydon’s ruling as “a tour de force in its explanation”.
Mr Brandis told reporters on Monday that Mr Heydon was “a man who has no politics, who is entirely free of politics”.
“Mr Heydon has delivered detailed reasons for his decision,” he said.
“They, in my view, state with great precision and commanding reasoning the appropriate legal principles and accurately apply those legal principles to the facts of this particular case.”
Mr Brandis says the Royal Commission has seen 26 trade union officials referred to the criminal and industrial authorities, and four arrested.
He said the hearings were “shining a light on the dark corners of the trade union movement” and Labor should let it continue.
When asked on Mr Heydon’s email habits, Mr Brandis said that “anyone who is professionally acquainted with Mr Heydon or knows his professional reputation knows that this is one of the finest intellects in this country”.
“Whether he chooses to use a computer, whether he chooses to communicate by email is hardly the point,” he said.
However Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said the commission had “descended into high farce, riddled with political bias”.
In a statement issued on Monday, Mr Dreyfus said the “scandal” had damaged the royal commission beyond repair.
“Labor’s concerns about Dyson Heydon’s conduct have not been satisfied by anything he has said,” he said.
Former High Court judge Dyson Heydon was appointed to oversee the royal commission into trade union corruption in March 2014.In April 2014 he accepted an invitation to give the August 2015 Sir Garfield Barwick address.On August 13 2015 he pulled out of the event after realising it was organised by the Liberal Party and the commission was continuing after an extension.He has since admitted he “overlooked” the connection to the Liberal Party and the timing of the speech.Unions and federal Labor want Mr Heydon to stand down.
What the unions argue
The ACTU (on behalf of other unions), CFMEU and AWU have all made submissions seeking to have Mr Heydon disqualified.They claim an average person would think the commissioner would not bring an impartial mind to proceedings, having been willing to speak at a Liberal Party event.Mr Heydon could not give unions or other witnesses before the commission a fair hearing because of a perceived political bias, they say.
What the public thinks
An Essential poll found that one in four voters believe Dyson Heydon should continue as unions royal commissioner.38 per cent of voters believe Mr Heydon should step aside.25 per cent of voters said he should stay
What happens next
Hearings have been adjourned until 10am on Tuesday.The commission, which was extended late last year, is due to hand down its final report by December 31.
Read Dyson Heydon’s ruling in full below.