Mark Dreyfus MP

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ABC Melbourne 23 June 2020 - Mark Dreyfus QC MP

23 June 2020

SUBJECT: Dyson Heydon



SUBJECT: Dyson Heydon

VIRGINIA TRIOLI:Mark Dreyfus is the Shadow Attorney-General and has long locked horns with Dyson Heydon, in particular over whether he was the right man to lead that Royal Commission into trade unions and by association, Julia Gillard as well. And of course he is, and of, the law as well. And he joins me now too. Mark Dreyfus, good morning to you.

MARK DREYFUS, SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL:Thanks for having me Virginia.

TRIOLI:Does the law have a #MeToo problem?

DREYFUS:I think it does. And we heard the President of the Law Council of Australia, Pauline Wright, saying this morning this should be seen as an UsToo problem for the legal profession.

I think Australian workplaces have this problem and I join with you and with Josh (Bornstein) in thinking of the suffering that's been experienced by the women who came forward and by every woman that's experienced sexual harassment in Australia. We need to somehow get to a position where everybody understands that sexual harassment in the workplace is never acceptable and we're a long way off that.

TRIOLI:Had you heard the stories about Dyson Heydon?

DREYFUS:No, not about him. But obviously I've spent a life in the legal profession before joining the Parliament, and I'm still in a sense very connected to the legal provision as when I was Attorney-General and now Shadow Attorney-General.

I'm very aware of sexual harassment that's occurred for very many years in the legal profession. It's not the only Australian workplace where that happens but it's widespread. It's, as Kate Jenkins, the Sex Discrimination Commissioner has pointed out in a recent report, it is particularly prevalent in hierarchical workplaces where there are massive power imbalances. That, regrettably, describes the legal profession and the High Court is perhaps more than any other place hierarchical, with immense power imbalances between, in this case a 60 year old, 60 plus judge and young women just out of law school, very often having come top of their class. The brightest and best, as Josh Bornstein just said, of the legal provision. It's tragic to think that three of the six women concerned have abandoned the law.

TRIOLI:Is this a sense of entitlement amongst the generation of male judges and even barristers and others that still prevails?

DREYFUS:It's a culture that is there. I don't want to attempt to explain it because it's wrong and we need to get people to recognise that it's wrong. It's deeply disturbing this kind of conduct has continued for as long as it has and has affected so many people.

It's dreadful that this is an all too familiar tale for many women. I'm hoping this is a wake up call. I'm hoping that the report that the High Court has done, the reforms that the High Court has adopted following an extraordinarily clear apology from the Chief Justice of the High Court, I'm hoping that the reforms which involve what many people might think of as simple things - simply having someone at the court that associates, these young associates, can go and talk to - clear a clear path for them to make a complaint if they need to.

These are steps that ought to have been taken a long time ago, but the fact that they've been taken now is a very good thing and let's hope it's a prompt for, not just in the legal profession, but for all Australian institutions and workplaces to focus on prevention, to put in place steps that deal with what is clearly a systemic problem, to be proactive, to try to make sure this doesn't happen in the first place so it's not left for complaint.

TRIOLI:You famously locked horns with Dyson Heydon when he was handpicked by Tony Abbott to run the Royal Commission that was supposed to get - let's be blunt - trade unions and by extension, Julia Gillard and her legal and trade union connections. It didn't come off in in that way. Do you feel vindicated at all?

DREYFUS:Well, the complaint that we made against Dyson Heydon was that he had shown bias, clear indications of bias, by speaking at a Liberal Party fundraiser. We had concerns about the way he conducted the Royal Commission. We had concerns about the Royal Commission itself being an entirely politically motivated Royal Commission dredging over two decade old events in an attempt to besmirch Tony Abbott's political opponents.

None of that, however, had anything to do with this conduct which has now come to light. Its certainly not something I imagined. They're separate matters and I would like to think they can be kept separate. I don't feel vindicated by the fact that these women have had to come forward. I dont feel vindicated by this investigation by the former Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, Vivienne Thom. It's separate from the complaint that we in Labor had about the whole conduct of the Royal Commission.

TRIOLI:Mark Dreyfus, thank you for your time this morning.

DREYFUS:Thanks very much. Virginia.