The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) will ask the royal commissioner into trade union corruption, Dyson Heydon, to disqualify himself – an application he will hear on Friday.
The ACTU advised the commission on Wednesday that it would go ahead with the move, which is based on Heydon accepting an invitation – which later he withdrew from – to deliver the Liberal-sponsored Garfield Barwick address.
In a statement, ACTU secretary Dave Oliver said that given Tony Abbott would not shut down the commission, the ACTU must take further action.
Labor has put on hold until September 7 a proposed Senate motion calling on the Governor-General to remove Heydon on the grounds that he had “failed to uphold the standards of impartiality expected of a holder of the office of Royal Commissioner”. It did not have enough crossbench support to go ahead this week.
The ALP’s Senate leader Penny Wong said this decision gave Heydon the opportunity to respond to any submissions seeking his disqualification before the parliament dealt with the matter.
“Labor maintains that Commissioner Heydon’s decision to accept an invitation to address a Liberal party fundraiser is unacceptable and his position is untenable.”
Earlier, government Senate leader Eric Abetz told the ABC the issue was about a “non-event … It is about something that did not occur”.
“This is venom and hatred being spewed forth by Labor and the trade union movement against the messenger who is uncovering scandal after scandal after scandal, keeping in mind that there are Labor luminaries that see the benefit of this royal commission, see the need for the royal commission.”
Abetz said that as soon as Heydon “became aware that he had overlooked the type of function it was, he immediately withdrew before it even hit the media”.
Abbott told parliament it was a criminal offence to attack a serving royal commissioner, although “I am sure that former justice Dyson Heydon is big enough to deal with the vicious slander to which he has been exposed from members opposite”.
Abbott declined to say what Heydon was being paid, but said the commission was running under budget.