Interview ABC NewsRadio Evenings, 31/8/2015.
Wilhelm Harnisch, CEO of Master Builders Australia.
MBA welcomes Justice Heydon’s decision to remain at the head of the Royal Commission into trade union governance and corruption.
Laura Tchillinguirian (Presenter): The Master Builders Association has welcomed the decision by Justice Dyson Heydon to continue as the head of the Royal Commission into Trade Unions.
The former High Court Judge has announced he will not stand down, despite being accused by Unions of bias for agreeing to appear at a Liberal Party fundraiser.
Despite withdrawing from the event, Mr Heydon has faced a barrage of criticism, with three unions applying for him to remove himself from the Royal Commission.
We’ve heard the reaction of the ACTU’s Dave Oliver and Shadow Attorney General Mark Dreyfus to Dyson Heydon’s decision.
We’re joined now by Wilhelm Harnisch CEO of Master Builders Australia for his response.
Wilhelm Harnisch (CEO Master Builders Australia): Justice Heydon’s decision now brings to a conclusion the controversy that the unions tried to bring to the Royal Commission by seeking disrupt it.
Today’s decision by Justice Heydon was the right one to be made in terms of returning the Royal Commission to its focus on investigating the thuggery and corruption which unfortunately besets the construction industry.
Laura Tchillinguirian: Do you feel it was right for him to decide to stay in the role?
Wilhelm Harnsich: Look, Justice Heydon is a man of great integrity, he was an eminent High Court Judge, and no one could ever accuse Justice Heydon of any bias in his previous life. The allegations of bias brought by the unions about his role in the trade union Royal Commission simply don’t stand-up to rational scrutiny.
The application brought by the unions is not something a High Court Judge would normally have to consider, but Justice Heydon has given very substantial reasons for his decision and Master Builders is very confident in the integrity of the Royal Commission and its work going forward.
Laura Tchillinguirian: Dave Oliver (Secretary of the ACTU) described the Royal Commission as terminally tarnished. Doesn’t that concern you? That the Royal Commission is tainted?
Wilhelm Harnisch: No, the Royal Commission has not been tainted. The community needs to understand that the integrity of the evidence heard by the Royal Commission has not been tainted.
What has been tainted is the reputation of the unions, particularly the CFMEU. Their reputation has been tainted by the compelling evidence heard by the Royal Commission which shows a culture of corruption and intimidation in the construction industry and by their attempts to shut down the Commission.
Laura Tchillinguirian: Isn’t there now the risk that any ultimate conclusions drawn by the Royal Commission will be undermined by all this controversy surrounding Justice Heydon? Would it not have been better for him to step down?
Wilhelm Harnisch: Look, the building unions will try and portray the Royal Commissioner and the Royal Commission in that light.
But the community should understand that at no point has the integrity of the Royal Commission and its processes been under question and therefore Master Builders, the construction industry and the business community in general will have no doubt about the integrity of the Commission’s findings or any law reform recommendations included its Final Report.
Laura Tchillinguirian: The unions are claiming that the costs of the Royal Commission are unnecessary and that allegations of criminality should be referred to the Police. Wouldn’t this be a more speedy and effective way of dealing with any crime or corruption found within the industry?
Wilhelm Harnisch: Look, the building unions, particularly the CFMEU have made that claim for many decades but successive Royal Commissions and judicial inquiries have found the Police ineffective at dealing with the culture of corruption and criminality in the industry.
That’s why Master Builders is calling for the re-establishment of the ABCC as a stronger more effective cop on the beat. The claims by the unions are simply a shallow attempt to divert attention away from the compelling evidence supporting the need for stronger powers to deal with the corruption and criminality in the industry.
Laura Tchillinguirian: So you have reason to believe the allegations of widespread corruption and criminality in the building industry?
Wilhelm Harnisch: Yes, evidence was highlighted by the Cole Royal Commission, these matters are dealt with by Fair Work Building and Construction and there has been evidence raised by this current inquiry, particularly in hearings held in Canberra which the ACCC is now investigating.
This is why the Royal Commission must continue and its conclusions acted on by the Government following the handing down of its Final Report later this year.