Yesterday Conrad Liveris said Dyson Heydon made the right choice to continue the Royal Commission. Today, brand new Australian citizen Chetna Prakash, initially puzzled by the Royal Commission fiasco, did some digging and discovered a sobering truth.
As an Indian immigrant to Australia, the recent Bronwyn Bishop scandal left me perplexed. By ways of a comparison, the last big corruption scandal in India involved misappropriated funds amounting to $27 billion US dollars (or $38 billion Australian), so considering the air time given over a paltry $5000 dollar (freebie) chopper ride, I didn’t get it. The reaction didn’t fit the crime. It felt like someone complaining about a recreational weed habit to an ice-addict who had just murdered his family. Given this, imagine my confusion at having to come to terms with Dyson Heydon’s peccadillo. He had accepted, then later withdrew from speaking at a Liberal party fundraiser while presiding over the Royal Commission investigating corruption in unions, which forms the support base of the Labor party.
There seemed to be four degrees of separation between the Liberal party fundraiser and Labor party.
Was this even worth a Facebook post?
But being a newly-minted citizen, I decided to dig deeper in order to understand the uproar. Here’s what I found. Justice Heydon’s decision was a bad one, not just for the Labor party and the unions, but for every Australian (and self-respecting Gmail users) who places a value on democracy.
The Royal Commission is important to the Labor Party, for unions are an important cog within the system. Unions are where Labor’s future leaders cut their political teeth, to learn the ropes and climb the ladder. Viewed from outside, I certainly prefer Labor’s to the Liberal way, which more often than not amounts to “preexisting social status = Liberal Party seat”. The Labor way leaves more room for people from diverse backgrounds, class and professions to enter politics. It is a more grounded and connected way to learn leadership, where you rise from within the communities you claim to support.
It is clear to see that the Australian Unions are a dysfunctional construct. Whatever else the Commission stood for (read: political vendetta), it was uncovering serious malfeasance and lack of accountability in the union workings.
The lack of transparency created two problems.
On one hand, it created opportunities of corruption for union officials, and on the other, it allowed Liberal Party to imply all kinds of real and imagined misdemeanors of the unions. The absence of transparency a useful tool for both.
Thus, I felt the Commission was necessary.
If for nothing else, to force the Labor party (and the associated unions) to work out a more transparent governance structure. Which in the future, will leave them less vulnerable to corruption and/or the rumours of corruption.
The reality of what Dyson Heydon’s decision has born is an excuse, one to give the Unions and the Labor Party to dismiss the Royal Commission’s findings, and thereby avoiding any necessary self-examination of the system already in place.
On the surface, Justice Heydon’s reasoning of “ being incapable of sending and receiving emails”, is one as provable as Bill Clinton’s “I didn’t inhale”. But given that his claim cannot be proved one way or the other, the only certainty, is that neutrality of the Commission will be forever smeared with a question mark.
In turn, the taint of bias will give a good excuse to the Labor party and its associated unions to avoid some thorough introspection and cleansing. The loser out of this will be the everyday Australian, who may have now lost the opportunity for supporting a more robust alternative to the Liberal Party.