23 June 2020

SUBJECTS: Dyson Heydon revelations; Labor’s call for a Robodebt Royal Commission
ANDREW BOLT, HOST: Bill Shorten, thank you so much for your time. The news with Dyson Heydon now, how does it make you feel after having been read a moral lecture from this same judge when you appeared before him at the Royal Commission into trade union corruption?

BILL SHORTEN, MEMBER FOR MARIBYRNONG: Well, for a moment, parking how I feel about the Trade Union Royal Commission, I was surprised, shocked. But the more I stop to think about it, as the story broke last night, clearly I felt for the six women associates who'd been mentioned and other lawyers, a High Court judge is, there is no higher in the legal system in Australia. And for these women to come forward and have their matter investigated and for Chief Justice Kiefel to then apologise to these women - you know, that's gigantic. Also seeing the Inquisitor-In-Chief who gave lectures to not just me, but to lots of people caught up in that Royal Commission. It’s another world now it's all back onto you. But that's not the main game here, is it? The main game is this most remarkable revelation and the way Chief Justice Kiefel’s handled the matter.

BOLT: I mean, look, I agree with you, except for this one problem I have and I wonder what you think. Here, the High Court Chief Justice has essentially ruled that she finds him guilty. She’s apologised. She's ashamed and all that. But this will be going to court almost certainly, at least for three of the women. Does that concern you, that the Chief Justice, our top legal official, has really proclaimed essentially guilt or innocence in a case that's yet to go to court?

SHORTEN: Well, I guess though, she's also the employer and there are obligations. And I'm sure she wishes this whole thing hadn't come to be. I can't read her mind, but, she's taken steps once notified, and it seems by the amount of reportage, there's been a lot of investigation and a lot of checking with a lot of people. So I don't know what the parties do after this. You're right. There could be court processes. The Commonwealth may just choose to try and resolve it. But I think the Chief Justice was in a tremendously difficult position, but not one of her own making. And what does she do once people have come to her with complaints?

BOLT: Look, I'm not pretending it's easy. I agree. It's just, you're caught either way. But it does raise very interesting legal issues, I think, depending on how far this this case goes. You've called for him, Dyson Heydon, to be stripped of his Australian honours. Why is that?

SHORTEN: Yeah. Because in the light of what the Chief Justice has said about the conduct. I wouldn't have thought that would render you suitable to have an AC. I mean, this isn't word against word in one situation, as important as it is to check those matters out. There's a pattern here. And it's not just an allegation. The Chief Justice has come forward publicly after, I suspect, a very -  I don't suspect, I believe, a very thorough investigation. So therefore, this isn't the standard bear pit of social media, or ‘he said she said’, this is a pattern of behaviour which when you look at the significance of the people involved, I suspect that Chief Justice Kiefel will have crossed all her t's and dot at all her i’s. And I think for the women involved, this would not have been an easy process in the slightest. But just not at all.

BOLT: Just finally, you want a Royal Commission into this overpayments scandal. The government had a plan, Robodebt, to match people's profile against a certain set of criteria. And if it looked like they'd been overpaid, send them a threatening letter. And, of course, that's now being judged to be unlawful. And the government is going to say sorry and pay people back. Why have a Royal Commission on top of that?

SHORTEN: Well, without being pedantic, you said the matter was judged to be unlawful. What happened is that for four years, the government raised in excess of half a million debts against nearly half a million Australians, with no lawful authority. But this wasn't the finding of the Court. The Commonwealth came when the matter finally went to court, and the Commonwealth agreed that it was unlawful. So the Commonwealth themselves put their hand up in the court when it finally got to the federal court and said, we give up. This is unlawful. So the reason why we have a Royal Commission is the government won't tell us when they realised it was unlawful. They won't tell us why they never bothered to check, whether or not this scheme of unjust enrichment raising hundreds of millions of dollars against hundreds of thousands of our most vulnerable was unlawful. They won't say who made the decision. They won't say why they didn't check, was it legal? They won't say were they running a deliberate litigation strategy of settling at the door of court whenever someone complained. So I do think that the only way we're going to get to the bottom of how this mistake could have occurred, how an unlawful scheme could be perpetuated for four years against Australian citizens is a Royal Commission. In parliament they stonewall us. The court actions are about compensation. But this government's hiding behind legal privilege, and we'll never find out unless we have a Royal Commission. How could you make an illegal decision hundreds of thousands of times, costing people millions of dollars and real hardship for a lot of people?

BOLT: Bill Shorten, thank you so much for your time.

SHORTEN: Good evening, Andrew.