Union lawyers have claimed there is no way Dyson Heydon -- a former High Court judge -- could have misunderstood a series of emails detailing the political links to an event he was due to address.
Heydon withdrew from delivering the Sir Garfield Barwick address, organised by a professional group tied to the Liberal Party which had been scheduled for next week, due to a conflict of interest with his current duties probing the union movement.
Robert Newlinds SC, who represented a group of unions today, argued before Heydon that he should step down from part or all of the inquiry due to bias. Heydon will himself rule on whether he will continue in the role.
The union argument centered around an email exchange between Heydon and function organiser, Robert Burton, in which the phrase ‘Liberal Party of Australia, New South Wales division, lawyers' branch and legal policy branch’ was repeatedly used.
“We know that you're a man with a reputation for having a razor sharp mind, to use another cliche, a mind like a steel trap,” Newlinds said, addressing Heydon.
“People don't get appointed to the High Court of Australia unless they are considered truly brilliant lawyers, and what do truly brilliant lawyers have over and above truly ordinary lawyers? They have that special ability to absorb incredibly quickly and distil facts.
“So the reasonable hypothetical bystander is going to think you've read this email. Now he or she may think you've read it quickly. But they're going to think that you are a very good reader … and that even when reading quickly you pick up the salient points.”
Heydon has so far resisted calls to stand down, saying he did not know the function was a political fundraiser.
Emails read out before the commission this morning showed a history of discussion between Heydon, his assistant Barbara Price and organiser Gregory Burton over the period of a year.
Heydon issued a media release withdrawing from the event after a media inquiry was lodged with the Commission on August 12.
“Maybe the result of this inquiry will be all the rumour and innuendo that's floated around for decades in this country, that unions are corrupt and the like, is not true. And you (Heydon) will give them a clean bill of health. That's possible," Newslinds said.
“But it will have no credibility to anyone if it comes forward in the context that there's been a finding that it was a biased hearing.
“It can't be allowed to happen that people can just walk around after the report and say, 'oh well, don't worry about that report, that was old Mr Heydon and he was biased, he told us he was biased'.”
Heydon is expected to make a ruling about his future early next week.