Tony Abbott has declared “business as usual” at the unions royal commission, as the labour movement seeks further legal advice.
Royal commissioner Dyson Heydon on Tuesday ended a two-week freeze on hearing evidence in the inquiry into union corruption – a day after ruling against a union bid to have him dismissed over perceived bias.
Mr Heydon had been asked to disqualify himself for accepting an invitation to speak at a Liberal Party event in Sydney.
“In respect of the royal commissioner and the royal commission, today it’s business as usual,” Mr Abbott told reporters in Canberra.
“Rorts, rackets and rip-offs inside the union movement are being exposed.”
He said the commission, which the coalition government set up after the 2013 election, was not a “political plaything”.
“It’s actually the key to better unions, more honest unions and a better, more honest Labor party,” Mr Abbott said.
Labor is pressing ahead with a bid to pass a motion in the Senate calling on Governor-General Peter Cosgrove to sack Mr Heydon.
“It is appropriate that the Labor party and that the parliament takes up the matters of this shambolic and tainted royal commission,” Opposition Leader Bill Shorten told reporters in Melbourne.
Government Senate leader Eric Abetz said the motion would have no legal consequence – based on advice from the Senate clerk – and was a “completely unprincipled” stunt.
However, opposition Senate leader Penny Wong said the clerk had advised the motion Labor planned was an appropriate way for the Senate to express its view on the matter.
Senator Abetz said the opposition and unions had a right to go to court to appeal the decision.
The ACTU is considering such action but has not yet decided how to proceed.
Mr Shorten said allowing Mr Heydon to continue was like letting Collingwood football club president Eddie McGuire “declare himself OK to be the umpire in a Collingwood grand final”.