The ACTU is calling on Tony Abbott to immediately terminate the Royal Commission into trade unions given the appearance of bias by Justice Dyson Heydon’s acceptance of a guest speaker role at a Liberal Party fundraiser.

ACTU Secretary Dave Oliver and President Ged Kearney have written to the Prime Minister calling for immediate action.

This appearance of bias and partisan behaviour by Justice Heydon taints any and all findings of the Royal Commission and it must be terminated.

Failure to act by Tony Abbott is out of step with community expectations of our elected officials and calls into question the Prime Minister’s and the Federal Government’s judgement.

Indeed, Justice Heydon himself made clear the definition of apprehended bias in his High Court ruling in relation to British American Tobacco, as listed below:

It is fundamental to the administration of justice that the judge be neutral. It is for this reason that the appearance of departure from neutrality is a ground of disqualification[179]. Because the rule is concerned with the appearance of bias, and not the actuality, it is the perception of the hypothetical observer that provides the yardstick. It is the public’s perception of neutrality with which the rule is concerned. In Livesey it was recognised that the lay observer might reasonably apprehend that a judge who has found a state of affairs to exist, or who has come to a clear view about the credit of a witness, may not be inclined to depart from that view in a subsequent case. It is a recognition of human nature.

Source: Par 139 of British American Tobacco v Laurie [2011] HCA 2 (9 February 2011), High Court of Australia, French CJ, Gummow, Heydon, Kiefel and Bell JJ

By any standard, Justice Heydon’s behaviour fails the apprehended bias test and it is incumbent on the Prime Minister to terminate the Royal Commission into Trade Unions immediately.

Quotes attributable to ACTU President Ged Kearney:

“There is no doubt that this Royal Commission is a waste of $80 million in tax payer’s money and the Prime Minister Tony Abbott must end this shameful farce immediately.”

“This Royal Commission has no claim to independence, impartiality or adherence to due process and must be terminated. Justice Dyson Heydon’s decision to help raise funds for the Liberal Party is merely the latest example.”

“The ACTU has always maintained that the Royal Commission is about attacking the ability of unions to deliver outcomes for working people – jobs, wages, conditions and safety. This latest example of bias is further proof.”