TheSydney Morning Herald’s bombshell revelation that former High Court judge Dyson Heydon sexually harassed six young female associates has rocked the legal profession, but it does not come as a surprise that the law – just like politics, media and the arts – has operated to protect powerful sex offenders and shut down victims. The top echelons of the legal profession are especially well defended with the field being litigious by definition, and Australia’s defamation laws (the most restrictive in the world) have also bogged down the local #MeToo movement with threats and payouts. Huge credit must go to journalists Jacqueline Maley and Kate McClymont for their thorough investigation (which began with tip-offs in 2017, at the same time allegations were made against TV host Don Burke and actor Craig McLachlan), and Crikey[$] has canvassed their efforts in a behind-the-scenes piece indicating that more revelations are on their way. Heydon rejects the findings, brought by an independent investigation commissioned by the High Court, and has denied all allegations of predatory or illegal behaviour through his lawyers, while apologising for any offence caused. In a statement to the Herald, Chief Justice Susan Kiefel said, “We are ashamed that this could have happened at the High Court of Australia”, and apologised to the six women, adding that “their accounts of their experiences at the time have been believed”.
Heydon has argued that the High Court’s investigation was not conducted by a lawyer, but by senior public servant Vivienne Thom, the former inspector-general of intelligence and security. The Australian’s legal affairs editor Chris Merritt wrote [$] that the High Court’s investigation “may have lacked procedural fairness”, for reasons including that Heydon did not get to interview the complainants himself, and because “none of the women is believed to have complained about his conduct at the time the incidents are alleged to have taken place”. Maurice Blackburn lawyer Josh Bornstein, who is acting for three of the complainants who are seeking compensation, told Crikey the suggestion that Heydon was not afforded procedural fairness by the High Court was “ridiculous”, noting that the former judge “was at all times also being advised by experienced lawyers”. Starting a culture war over such serious allegations would be, even for The Australian, stooping to a new low. Former Labor senator Doug Cameron tweeted: “Murdoch rag The Australian has started the attack on the young women who have exposed the abhorrent behaviour of Dyson Heydon, claiming they did not complain ‘at the time’. Poses that he was denied procedural fairness and should have been allowed to cross examine the women. [Face vomiting].”
Heydon has plenty of enemies on the Labor side of politics, having presided over the politically motivated royal commission into trade union corruption set up by the Abbott government, and he was called out at the time for accepting an invitation to speak at a Liberal party fundraiser (he later withdrew from the event). Today, former Labor leader Bill Shorten, who was given a hard time by Heydon during the royal commission, called for Heydon to repay the salary he earned during the inquiry and for him to be stripped of his Companion of the Order of Australia (an example of getting a gong for merely doing one’s job, in any event). The High Court’s findings against conservative Heydon should be muted, however. As Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins toldRN Breakfast this morning, there are no professions that are immune to sexual harassment claims. “I’ve just finished an 18-month inquiry looking at sexual harassment across Australian workplaces, and we heard stories time and again of how common sexual harassment is, and the research tells us one in three Australian workers have experienced sexual harassment in the last five years,” Jenkins said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison described [$] the Heydon allegations as “very disturbing”. As University of Newcastle law lecturer KCasey McLoughlin wrote for The Conversation, the Heydon investigation is a #MeToo moment for the legal profession, in which the International Bar Association’s “Us Too” report found harassment was rife despite the rising number of female lawyers. No doubt, it won’t be the last case of sexual harassment in law, or in any other profession.
“Witness K and Bernard Collaery did no harm to Australia’s vital national security interests. If anything, they rescued Australia from moral depravity as they helped roll back a criminal, illegal order to carry out an illegal wiretapping of a friendly government. The case against them should be summarily dismissed.”
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“[The measures include:] a $40 million Forestry Recovery Development Fund for competitive grants that support processors to navigate future wood supply shortages through innovation and product diversification; $10 million for the establishment of storage facilities for processed timber products, fire-affected logs and other forestry products; a $5 million fund for grants up to $10,000, matched by a co-contribution, for wine grape producers who experienced crop loss because of smoke taint from the Black Summer bushfires in wine regions that aren’t currently activated for the $75,000 primary producer grants; a $31 million fund for grants of $120,000 per hectare for bushfire impacted apple growers.”
“There is nothing to commend the ghastly Belgian tyrant King Leopold II in any context, let alone an Australian one. But our history certainly includes men like James Cook, Arthur Phillip, Lachlan Macquarie and many of the pioneers who opened up the continent to white settlement. They were not flawless, and their faults should be recorded, but so should their achievements … Like it or not, history is our past: it informs our present and offers us ways to shape our future. We do not need to embrace it, but we ignore it at our peril.”
“Justin Hemmes concedes his billion-dollar Merivale pub empire could never have expanded so aggressively were it not for a Howard-era workplace agreement that paid some staff substantially below the modern award for a decade. According to court documents – filed in a class action claiming almost $100 million in back pay for lost penalty rates and other entitlements – Hemmes’ company, Merivale, argues this is proof it thought it was acting lawfully. Amid these underpayment allegations, however, the businessman has been drafted by two Coalition governments to provide economic and workplace advice in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.”
Paddy Manning is contributing editor (politics) at The Monthly and has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is the author of Inside the Greens and the unauthorised biography of Malcolm Turnbull, Born To Rule?
TheSydney Morning Herald’s bombshell revelation that former High Court judge Dyson Heydon sexually harassed six young female associates has rocked the legal profession, but it does not come as a surprise that the law – just like politics, media and the arts – has operated to protect powerful sex offenders and shut down victims. The top echelons of the legal profession are especially well defended with the field being litigious by definition, and Australia’s defamation laws (the most restrictive in the world) have also bogged down the local #MeToo movement with threats and payouts. Huge credit must go to journalists Jacqueline Maley and Kate McClymont for their thorough investigation (which...
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