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Law Council calls for respect for embattled Heydon

The Law Council of Australia has labelled public attacks on royal commissioner Justice Dyson Heydon "unacceptable", urging concerned parties to take action through official channels.

user iconDigital 19 August 2015 The Bar
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Justice Heydon, a former High Court Judge and current trade unions royal commissioner, has come under fire this week after it emerged he planned to give a speech at a Liberal Party fundraiser.

Most recently, human rights barrister Julian Burnside QC called for Justice Heydon to step aside, claiming his previous remarks "defending" Justice Heydon were taken out of context.

In Monday’s Question Time, Prime Minister Tony Abbott quoted Mr Burnside to defend Justice Heydon’s position amid calls for him to resign.


“As was pointed out by someone who is no great friend of this government, Julian Burnside QC, Dyson Heydon is a man of honour,” Mr Abbott said.

While Mr Burnside stood by his assessment, he suggested it was "grasping at straws" to use the comments in defence of Justice Heydon staying on at the commission.

“I don't think [the government] would see me as a natural source of support, but the fact is I do have a high regard for Dyson Heydon,” he said according to a report by the ABC.

"In fact, as I've said, I think he is an honourable person and I think in the circumstances an honourable person would step aside."

Law Council president Duncan McConnel urged the public and members of the profession to grant Justice Heydon "the same respect, inside and outside of the inquiry, as a judge in a court".

"The public attacks on the commissioner being played out through the media are unacceptable and damage the basis on which tribunals and courts operate," he said.

He suggested parties with concerns over Justice Heydon's impartiality lodge an application rather than airing their grievances in the media.

"The proper way for dealing with any question of bias, including apprehended bias, is to make an application for the commissioner to recuse himself, and for the commissioner to consider and rule on the application," he said.

Union body the ACTU has signalled it may consider applying for Justice Heydon’s disqualification as royal commissioner.

Justice Heydon accepted an offer to speak at the Sir Garfield Barwick memorial lecture, organised by the Liberal Party NSW as a fundraiser for the state election campaign, earlier this year.

Justice Heydon told the commission he did not understand the event was “in any sense a fundraiser” and had withdrawn from speaking last week.

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