The head of the Royal Commission inquiring into trade union corruption has ruled he should stay in the role, rejecting allegations he did not bring an impartial mind to his work.
Former High Court Justice Dyson Heydon revealed his response to union applications of perceived political bias on Monday after more than a week of delays.
“I have considered all the submissions,” he told the Royal Commission hearing in Sydney.
“In my opinion, the applications must be dismissed.”
In his written decision, Dyson Heydon rejected the description of the Sir Garfield Barwick address, where he was engaged to be the headline speaker, as a Liberal Party fundraiser.
“It is hard to see why it should be called a ‘Liberal Party event’ instead of ‘event attended by Liberals and non-Liberals to hear a non-political legal address,” Heydon wrote.
“The mere fact that a person agrees to deliver a speech at a particular forum does not rationally establish that the person is sympathetic to, or endorses the views of, the organiser of that forum," he said.
Heydon concluded it was not the case that that a “fair-minded lay observer might apprehend that I might not bring an impartial mind to the resolution of the questions which the work of the Commission requires to be decided”.
Dyson Heydon had earlier admitted he “overlooked” Liberal Party connections to the Sir Garfield Barwick address.
The decision has been welcomed by Attorney-General George Brandis, who said Dyson Heydon must get on with the important work he has been doing.
“I was quietly expecting this result,” he told Sky News.
“The evidence is the evidence, so far 26 people have been referred for criminal and civil prosecution.”
In his reasons, Heydon separated himself from his email correspondences, revealing he has no computer and all electronic communications are dealt with by his personal secretary.
“Indeed it is notorious among the legal profession that I am incapable of sending or receiving emails,” he declared.
“The consequence is that I read emails only after they have been printed out for me.”
Senator Brandis said the fact he cannot read emails was not relevant to his position.
"What I can tell you is that Dyson Heydon is one of the most intelligent people in Australia," he told reporters in Brisbane.
"Whether he chooses to use a computer, whether he chooses to communicate by email, is hardly the point."
ACTU National Secretary, Dave Oliver, says the Royal Commissioner is now “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 in Sydney.
The ACTU has threatened to take the matter to the Federal Court or all the way to the High Court.
Oliver said the union movement would now talk to legal counsel.
“We will consider and read the reasons for judgment. We have only just received it.”
Unions have reserved the right to withdraw participation in the Royal Commission.
Opposition Leader, and former Royal Commission witness, Bill Shorten had also called on Heydon to disqualify himself, and labelled the trade union royal commission a "political witch-hunt."
Earlier, the Social Services Minister Scott Morrison attacked Labor for joining the union campaign.
"What we are seeing is the Labor Party and Bill Shorten seeking to bully a former High Court judge out of a job because he is hearing in evidence before the royal commission, which is extremely embarrassing to Bill Shorten."
Labor’s Mark Dreyfus says the opposition will pursue the removal of Heydon through federal parliament.
“We're certainly going to be taking forward in the Senate next Monday, which is when the Senate next sits, a petition to the Governor-General to remove Dyson Heydon from this office.
"Tony Abbott has failed to act to remove Dyson Heydon from Tony Abbott's own royal commission. It's now left for the Parliament to act.”
The Trade Union Royal Commission has adjourned and is due to resume hearings on Tuesday.Suggest a correction