THE FRACAS over accepting — and withdrawing from — an invitation to give the Sir Garfield Barwick Lecture by former High Court judge and Royal Commissioner Dyson Heydon has sparked vicious, baseless attacks by Labor and unions; the lecture, for Liberal Party lawyers, hardly makes Heydon partisan. Yet in racing to destroy him, unions seek unfettered freedom to act as a law unto themselves, and Labor’s complicity in excusing illegal acts.
As we continue to catch up a bit on the busy week in politics that a heavy schedule and a health scare conspired to keep me away from, I want to share with readers a perspective from one of the conservative contemporaries with whom I regularly mull over the political goings-on in this country and beyond; no conspiracy theorist, this gentleman regularly notes that when faced with opponents, conservatives are content to work to defeat them, and whilst the tactics* used can sometimes be brutal, in general terms the advancement of conservative objectives is sufficient.
By contrast, the Left — not merely content to defeat opponents — sets out to destroy those ranged against it; people like me are dismissed as “RWNJs” for merely disagreeing with them (often without rancour) and blocked on Twitter, once the social media trolls of the Left have spread a campaign of ridicule, contempt and abuse around the Internet about us. That’s the “soft treatment.”
But when it comes to the “hard treatment” reserved for those on the Right regarded as posing existential and/or electorally mortal threats to the Left and its interests, the explicit objectives of campaign are based on the single-minded aim of destroying opponents utterly: their ideas, their reputations, in some cases, the liveability of their lives. If Prime Minister Tony Abbott were litigiously inclined, for example, he could sue any number of lefties into the middle of next century for defaming him personally; the treatment was deployed against John Howard for years, but of course Howard and his coterie were far shrewder and more effective than the current bunch in dealing with such preposterous attacks.
And the reason I raise these perspectives today is because the self-interest and moral nihilism of the Left have intersected with the utter, utter stupidity of someone in the NSW Division of the Liberal Party who apparently thought it a good idea to invite retired High Court Justice Dyson Heydon QC — now the Royal Commissioner into the trade union movement — to deliver the annual Sir Garfield Barwick Lecture for “The Lawyers Branch and the Legal Policy Branch” of the NSW Liberals.
What is interesting about this episode from the outset is that the Fairfax press and the ABC have exhibited a total lack of interest in or willingness to report on the growing catalogue of misdemeanours apparently committed by individuals and organisations within and adjacent to the trade union movement that Heydon’s Royal Commission has progressively uncovered; not for them any reticence about thuggish union brutality or illegal conduct.
Rather, those sinecures have united with the ALP and the union movement in a wholesale campaign to wreck Heydon’s reputation and his distinguished legal career, attempting to trash his personal and professional integrity, seeking to discredit on a flimsy pretext the validity of the Royal Commission into the union movement with a view — ultimately — to having it shut down, and alleged criminals in the labour movement being allowed to escape scot-free and without judicial consequence.
And why? Because someone in the NSW Liberals, who should have known better, was dumb enough to think having Heydon address a Liberal Party function was a brilliant idea.
For additional reading today I include this piece from The Age, which dutifully and contemporaneously regurgitates the ALP/union case against Heydon, without so much as a syllable relating to the indecent and unlawful excesses of the union movement; and this article from Daily Telegraph writer (and favourite of this column) Piers Akerman, which at least presents with some semblance of balance insofar as it catalogues Labor’s wildly deranged rants against Heydon in the context of some of the obscenities already uncovered by his Royal Commission.
Tellingly, Piers also quotes at length left wing lawyer (and trouble-making agitator wherever conservative politics and its objectives are concerned), Julian Burnside QC, who flatly and repeatedly refused to allow criticisms of Heydon’s impartiality and integrity to stand — even when interviewed by the taxpayer-funded left wing propaganda machine that is ABC news and current affairs, and even when repeatedly pressed to do so.
Piers also goes on to itemise a litany of ALP attempts to frustrate and/or abort Royal Commissions in the past that have focused on alleged criminality on the part of its people that is most instructive, including — damningly — a threat made by former senior ALP frontbencher Stephen Smith that any judicial figure who accepted a commission to investigate former WA Premier Carmen Lawrence in the 1990s over what became known as the Penny Easton affair should brace for “political attack.”
The culture of intimidation, threats, bastardry, thuggery and general lawlessness that Heydon is attempting to sift through in a Royal Commission now is nothing new where the ALP and the broader Left in this country are concerned.
And whilst this column has freely criticised Attorney-General George Brandis’ performance as an Abbott government minister despite once sharing membership with him of the same Liberal Party branch in western Brisbane, his defence of Heydon today and the concurrent rebuttal of Labor/union attacks on him is very close to flawless.
Aside from the hanging offence of agreeing to speak at something at all connected with the Liberal Party — and we’ll come back to that in a moment — Heydon’s other alleged misdemeanour was taking 24 hours to reverse his acceptance to speak once he know the lecture was a fundraiser organised by the Liberals, and one can only visualise the unbridled ALP outrage that this eminent Australian took time to consider his actions before withdrawing, rather than simply jumping to what “anyone with a brain” would (or should) have known was the only acceptable course of action, which just happens to be what Labor wanted.
For the uninitiated, there are — scattered around the country — a small number of Liberal Party branches and other “offshoot” groups that are set up to cater to specific policy or business interests; the groups responsible for the Garfield Barwick Lecture constitute one of these entities. Another I know of exists in Brisbane, with a small business focus. These are not Liberal Party “branches” in the orthodox or widely understood sense; they’re more vehicles for professional interest.
But that carries no truck with Labor, which not only organises itself to facilitate setting competing internal cabals at each others’ throats, but goes so far as to have branches based purely on ethnicity in order to marshall and deploy “numbers” gathered from various immigrant communities to further the internal and broader political goals of those cabals of thuggery.
I tend to think the connection to Sir Garfield Barwick — the Chief Justice of the High Court in 1975, who advised then-Governor-General John Kerr on the course the latter had already determined to withdraw the commission of the Whitlam government — is a red rag to the Labor bull in its own right; the lecture in the former Chief Justice’s name was established in his honour and of course, to Labor types and lefties in Australia more broadly, Barwick is a villain secondary only to Kerr himself as a target of their hatred, and abuse, and vitriol.
The fact Kerr and Barwick acted in a manner that was both legal and constitutionally valid doesn’t matter to Labor types, who — again — will make any excuse for illegal actions, and embark on any number of eternal crusades to destroy completely the reputations of those they identify as enemies. Heydon, already in the gun for his role as Royal Commissioner, associating with Barwick even in the capacity of a lecture in his name is an incendiary and unforgivable act deserving of personal obliteration.
Now, unions — the notoriously militant, violent CFMEU first and foremost — are looking to use the excuse that Heydon has been revealed as “biased” as a pretext for legal action to have the Royal Commission shut down, whilst their puppet stooges at the ALP are seeking at the very minimum to have Heydon replaced.
Both outcomes would amount to a terrible miscarriage of justice.
And the excuse from thugs at the ALP and the unions that it is a politically motivated witch hunt simply doesn’t cut it: if it did, there wouldn’t be the imperative to discredit it and shut it down.
Labor “leader” Bill Shorten wouldn’t even be “leader” at all were it not for the fact the overwhelming majority of his MPs were locked into following the explicit orders given by some ghastly union or the other; rather than think for themselves, ALP MPs did what they were told: with the result the parliamentary party leadership is completely unrepresentative of the party’s membership, who wanted someone else.
The example is telling.
It isn’t hard to see why the unions want the Royal Commission closed down when — as Piers points out — plenty of conduct that at best can be described as “extremely legally dubious” and at worst, downright criminal, has already been uncovered.
The near-certainty of a parade of Labor and union figures through the Courts must be allowed to progress to its logical and inevitable conclusion, for the sake of decency, democracy, and the preservation of the rule of law.
But some idiot — or idiots — in the NSW Liberals have put that outcome in jeopardy.
No doubt someone thought Heydon would be a man-of-the-moment, star attraction billing that would bring attendees and money in a torrent; the fact someone clearly associated with the Liberal Party in an official capacity could act with such a lack of judgement is an indictment. But then again, there are plenty of amateurs and other self-important but useless specimens currently on the payroll and leaching hard-earned donation and membership money.
There are those floating around the Liberal Party who accuse me of treachery, or disloyalty, or aiding Labor, just because I call these things out for what they are. But those who run the party are so lacking in perception — and too often so utterly incompetent — that Labor doesn’t need my help: the people on the party payroll are doing that job just fine, all by themselves.
In the end, there is no case for the Royal Commission to be shut down; and whilst Heydon might perhaps have better availed himself of the full circumstances of the event he had been invited to address before accepting the invitation in the first place, he’s the closest to completely blameless of all the parties to this frightful — and on the Liberals’ part, grossly stupid — episode.
The message that should be emanating from the Liberal Party right now — from the Prime Minister, from Coalition MPs, and from the nameless sources worded up by Credlin’s machine and so ubiquitously quoted in the press as spokespeople — is that the Commission will continue, and that the Abbott government will not flinch in the face of baseless attacks from unions seeking not only to excuse criminal behaviour, but to preserve their ability to act as a law unto themselves.
But it won’t. As I have lamented in the past, this government couldn’t articulate the desire to purchase sex in a brothel. Its apparatus for strategy and tactics and communication is next to useless. The penchant for three-word slogans and incessant diatribes about national security will continue to be offered as a salve for all issues that confront it.
This means that even if Heydon is able to complete his inquiry and prosecutions follow, the ramifications for the Liberal Party will be dire, and once again be self-inflicted: and those consequences will far transcend the absence of a headline act to sell tickets to a lecture.
And it means the unions and the ALP — assisted by their fellow travellers at the ABC and at Fairfax — will continue to work to tear Heydon’s reputation to shreds, for no better reason that he’s onto them: and in a choice between outlawing criminality in the union movement and destroying a good man, I know which option decent people will be more supportive of.
*The Abbott government is excused from any suggestion it utilises brutal tactics or, in most cases, any cogent tactics at all; such is the ineffectual character of an outfit run behind the scenes by the likes of Peta Credlin and Brian Loughnane, who wouldn’t recognise sound tactical and strategic paths if they fell on them. Proof of this contention can be readily observed in any aggregation of reputable opinion polling over the past 18 months.