The royal commission into trade unions is turning into an absolute farce day by day. Reports in The Australian newspaper being some of the most damaging and concerning ones surrounding the Commissioner’s acceptance to speak at a Liberal Party function.
The reports do reveal the possibility that evidence by the royal commission and the Royal Commissioner and Counsel Assisting have not been disclosed or has not been disclosed until today’s report.
According to the Australian,well-known journalist and lawyer Marcus Priest, telephoned Mr Chris Winslow, the publications manager for the NSW Bar Association at 5.30 on August 12 and inquired about a ‘bar association alert’ put out in April 2015. In the conversation, Mr Priest expressed surprise that Commissioner Heydon had agreed to speak at the event because of its connection to the Liberal Party.
In response to the call, Mr Winslow sent an email to Mr Priest with the relevant invitation to the event attached, at 5.50pm. Later that evening, Mr Winslow became concerned that a story about the matter might be about to appear in the media. Mr Winslow felt an obligation to inform Counsel Assisting Mr Jeremy Stoljar of his fear to that effect. Mr Winslow emailed Mr Stoljar shortly after 7.00pm with an email which included the following: “Re the Barwick lecture: Does Dyson know this is connected to the Liberal party?” Counsel Assisting replied to Mr Winslow almost immediately with a statement which included the following: “I’ll raise that with him.”
The ACTU has said that this disclosure raises concerns for the union movement. In particular that:
That the explanation contained in the media release of the Royal Commission on 13 August 2015, that the Commissioner had acted to withdraw from the event (“if it could possibly be described as a Liberal party event”) before it attracted any media attention, might be misleading.
The ACTU also said that there has been inadequate disclosure of relevant documents made by the Commission as to this matter.
That on 17August in the initial hearing of the ACTU’s application, Counsel Assisting Mr Jeremy Stoljar, criticised the ACTU’s application as ‘grand-standing’ when in fact he knew the events described in this correspondence and today’s Australian article had not been disclosed to the ACTU or to the public.
“I think it is now time – on top of all the other issues – that Counsel Assisting and the Commissioner explain and answer these very serious questions about whether or not further evidence which has now been revealed in The Australian should have been disclosed earlier.” Of the opposition leader Bill shorten.
“I think there are questions to answer here by the Commissioner and indeed Counsel Assisting now who is embroiled in this matter: did Mr Stoljar tip off Mr Heydon? These are questions which the commission is going to have to answer.” said Mr Shorten “I think today’s report is quite a new and dramatic development. But furthermore, this royal commission really has turned out to be a political shambles and a mess of some amazing proportions.”
In a release today from the Australian Council Trade Unions(ACTU), Dave Oliver said the Commission must urgently provide any emails or other communications which are referred to, or relate to, today’s article in The Australian.
He also stated The ACTU has always maintained that the Royal Commission is a political witch hunt by Tony Abbott designed to weaken his political opponents.