SUBJECTS: Dyson Heydon allegations; Labor’s call for a Royal Commision into Robodebt; Victorian coronavirus numbers; changes to the New South Wales school curriculum.
ALLISON LANGDON, HOST: Thanks for joining us this morning. As a high court judge, Dyson Heydon was meant to be beyond reproach, a man of the highest integrity and morals in one of the most valued and trusted roles in the land. But the reality was very different. Today an independent High Court inquiry exposes him as a serial predator who sexually harassed six young female associates. He's also accused of indecently assaulting a fellow judge and bringing shame on his profession. To discuss, I'm joined by Shadow Cabinet Minister Bill Shorten and Triple M's Gus Worland. Good morning, gentlemen, well, Bill, I tell you what, these allegations, they make me feel ill, It's tough to imagine a greater betrayal of trust, isn't it?
BILL SHORTEN, MEMBER FOR MARIBYRNONG: It's shocking and I know we use the word shocking, but I am truly shocked when this started to break yesterday afternoon. My first thoughts were the six women, with other lawyers, who've encountered this fellow. It takes a great deal of strength to come forward, I mean these are associates, they are idealistic young staff, what a power imbalance, what a massive power imbalance. The fact that people now say, oh, it's been going on for years and years and years. I mean there'll be people, women who've dropped out of the profession, no doubt. I do salute Chief Justice Kiefel, I get all impressions that when it's been presented, she has acted. This is the High Court of Australia, it's a respected institution and it goes to show that no workplace has been immune from this sort of conduct.
LANGDON: And I mean, Gus we're learning, too, that this was a confidential inquiry. I mean, it just makes you wonder what would have happened had it not been exposed, if it hadn't been leaked to the paper, would we have never have known about this?
GUS WORLAND, TRIPLE M RADIO: Yeah exactly right, I imagine that's exactly the case and also, how many other things get swept under the carpet we don't find out about. So totally agree with both of you and the fact so many girls might have lost their profession, or decided not to go down that path because of it and what about all of the other people that knew that was going on? It was sort of an open secret if you like and they did nothing about it. It shows how powerful that bloke is but this is a time to strip him of all his recognition and get him sorted out. Make sure this inquiry turns into a proper commission, a proper opportunity to get in there and find out the truth.
LANGDON: Well, I mean, you do make that point, he's a Companion of the Order of Australia. So I'm sure there will now be calls for him to be stripped of that honour, but I mean, Bill, this is a man that you know quite well, you've dealt with him during the Royal Commission into Trade Unions.
SHORTEN: Well he was hand-picked by the Coalition Government to hold what I thought was a witch hunt into trade unions. I've dealt with him and that's a separate matter, the witch hunt was a waste of time. Now, it turns out that the witch hunter in chief has got his own baggage. But I do think unrelated to the Royal Commission, he has a companion, is a Companion of the Order of Australia. It's called an AC, for a lot of people no one knows about these honours, but these matters that the High Court's found, well, why does he get to keep his AC? And if the matter goes to court or there's further investigations, why does he get to keep all his taxpayer earnings from the Royal Commission. If you believe the women, this guy was using his job in a very predatory fashion, so how does he get to keep the highest honour in Australia?
LANGDON: We should point out too though, that lawyers for Mr Heydon have issued a statement denying the allegation. Now, more than a million people in six COVID danger zones around Melbourne could be forced back into hard lockdown as Victoria tries to prevent a second wave of the virus. I mean, Bill, despite these concerns, the Prime Minister, he's still pushing for open borders, saying we can't just shut everything up forever, is he right?
SHORTEN: Well, I think the challenge is that the second wave is occurring across the world and if it can happen in Victoria, it can happen everywhere. But as I understand and we've got to still fight the public health emergency first as hard as it is on small business and people's dislocation in their social lives. But as I understand, the strategy now has been to buy enough time because the second wave was always coming, if it's in a particular postcode or suburb you try and test almost everyone in the suburb. You ask the people in that suburb not to move around and that's how you hit it. So I think we have to try and do the balancing act, certainly in Victoria. Dan Andrews has prepared us so I think, a lot of testing and really hit these suburbs hard and make sure that we can catch all the cases.
LANGDON: So borders open or shut?
SHORTEN: Well, I wouldn't want to see Vic border shut with New South Wales, I mean, it's up to each Premier, but I guess we'll be guided by the public health emergency. But so far, it's just in these areas And I think we need to do the very targeted response.
LANGDON: Gus it's a bit of a wakeup call to all of us, isn't it?
WORLAND: Sure is. We thought we were through it, certainly in Sydney. We certainly are going along with life as if it never happened. So yeah it's spiking absolutely everywhere around the world, I suppose, Premier Andrews, that smart arse comment about not going to South Africa, not going to South Australia, I should say, you know, perhaps that's come back to bite him in the you know what.
LANGDON: You might be right. Hey Bill Labor is today calling for a Royal Commission into the failed Robodebt scheme, which is seeing 721 million dollars being paid back to Australians who were overcharged. What do you think a Royal Commission will actually achieve?
SHORTEN: I think we'll uncover what's really happened, in a sentence Robodebt was a computer-generated letter of demand sent to over half a million Australians where the government said, you owe us money. Only one problem with that over the last four and a half years, it was illegal. It was unlawful. You've got I mean, if a bank sent half a million letters of demand to consumers, which was illegal, we would be up in arms. The Government doesn't get a leave pass, and we can't get to the bottom of it in Parliament, citizens shouldn't have to take their government to court just to get the money back. We need a Royal Commission to get to the bottom of what caused real harm to people, jobs stopped, mental health problems, you name it.
LANGDON: All right. We'll have to be quick because there's a big shake-up coming to the school curriculum in New South Wales, which will see an end to subjects including puppetry, circus skills and wearable art, replaced by a focus on the basics, including Aboriginal culture. Gus, I'm not even sure what wearable art is, but is this the right move?
WORLAND: I definitely think it's the right move I think we've got to focus more on Australian history, too. I went through all the way through school, didn't have a clue of most of the things that happened in Australia. Find out about things in modern history and ancient history all over the world, but focusing on Aboriginal stuff and focusing on Australian history would be great for me. I've still got a young daughter in school and that's what I want her to know, learn about what the country that we're growing up in. And also, can we get a subject please around mental health and mental fitness? What it takes to be a man and what it takes to be a woman today in Australia, rather than the old archaic man and women rules. I reckon that would be great for most kids, so they can have a proper conversation that might just get their demons out so they can have a better life.
LANGDON: I think that is a great one for you to push, Gus, incredibly important. Bill, I’ve got to ask, how on earth can anyone complete their education without being able to ride a unicycle?
SHORTEN: Well, I've managed to get there, I'm glad I didn't get into law school based on unicycle skills, yeah I reckon Gus should be the Minister for Education. That was beautifully said, mate. I think I do think we've got to get back to basics, I like the idea of teaching more history, If you don't know what country we've been, how on earth can you know what we're going to do in the future? But I want to put a little plug in for the arts somewhere. I want kids to go to school and you know, fall in love with their favourite passions and that could be the arts, it could be music. So let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater, I still want kids to know, how do we get the actors and the musicians of the future if we don't give them a little taste of that excitement? And the problem is it shouldn't just be rich kids who get to do it, So I don't know, I think we've got to get the balance right. Sounds okay, but let's not get rid of the arts because where's our next, you know, Cate Blanchett going to come from?
WORLAND: Or Hugh Jackman mate!
LANGDON: Yeah! He's a bad fellow that bloke isn’t he? That’s it, we've got to allow kids to follow their passions, well said. Gentlemen, thanks for joining us this morning, appreciate it.