Opposition Leader Bill Shorten says the trade union royal commission has revealed its political motives as it defends a decision to release key documents on a Friday evening.
Mr Shorten said, on Saturday afternoon, he stood by his record and repeated his claim “Tony Abbott’s royal commission” was designed to “smear his political opponents”.
“I’m pleased at this decision … I think that the political nature of the royal commission has been exposed in the last few months,” he said.
He said he would not speculate on the timing of the documents’ release, saying it “does speak for itself”.
The royal commission on Saturday morning responded to criticism around the timing of release outside business hours, saying it had to meet the deadline set by the commissioner Dyson Heydon in October.
It said while it was aware of concerns about the timing of the release, it was operating under an “extremely tight timetable” to complete its work.
“The submissions were completed in the early evening of 6 November and immediately released to all affected persons through the Electronic Court Book shortly before being publicly released to the media at 8:07pm,” the statement read.
“There was no disrespect intended to any affected person by this process.”
Mr Stoljar made submissions relating to the AWU and its dealings with cleaning company Cleanevent, construction giant Thiess John Holland (TJH), glass company ACI and engineering firm Downer EDI.
The submissions are for the consideration of the royal commission and will not necessarily be taken up in its final report at the end of the year.
In a statement, Mr Stoljar said there was “no submission” Mr Shorten engaged in criminal or unlawful conduct in his role at the AWU between 1998 and 2000.
Labor, Greens criticise treatment of Shorten
Labor frontbencher Brendan O’Connor blasted the commission, saying it failed to act with “due process” and with fairness to affected parties.
He said Mr Shorten only found out about the development when journalists rang his office at 8:00pm.
“That really does underline the failure by this commission to act properly, act with due process and be procedurally fair to affected parties,” he said.
“This has been an attempt to have a show trial of the opponents of Government which has been an abuse of power, an abuse of executive power by the Government and a waste of $80 million of taxpayers money and for that reason the Government should apologise.”
Greens leader Richard Di Natale said it was clear the commission was a politically-motivated attempt to tarnish the Labor Party.
“[It’s] remarkable that late on a Friday night, the royal commission would hand down its findings that Bill Shorten has got nothing to answer for,” he said.
“It tells you everything you need to know about what this royal commission is all about.”
Shorten ‘conduct not criminal’
Despite the clearance for Mr Shorten, his successor as head of the AWU’s Victoria branch, Cesar Melhem, could face a slew of criminal charges.
Mr Melhem said in a statement he would review the royal commission material with his legal team to put together a response.
“This has been a long and drawn out process to date, and I expect it will continue to be so,” he said.
“However, I accept that allowing due process to take its course is essential if all the facts are to be fully and appropriately examined.”
When asked about Mr Melham, Mr Shorten said “Cesar can speak for Cesar”.
“I and Labor have zero tolerance for wrongdoing, we have zero tolerance for corruption”.
Submissions from counsel show he may have solicited corrupt commissions and been involved in false accounting.
Mr Stoljar has said in a statement there was “no submission” Mr Shorten engaged in criminal or unlawful conduct in his role at the AWU between 1998 and 2000.
The Labor leader was Victorian state secretary of the AWU from 1998 to 2006 and the union’s national secretary from 2001 until he entered federal parliament in 2007.
He attended royal commission hearings in Sydney in July where it emerged he updated his electoral funding disclosures just a week earlier after it was revealed building company Unibuilt had funded his campaign manager.
Counsel assisting found there was no evidence that arrangement had been entered into “for the purpose of avoiding disclosure requirements under the Commonwealth Electoral Act”.
“Further, Mr Shorten has taken steps to correct the fact that no disclosure was made and the limitation period for the prosecutions of any offences has expired,” the barristers wrote.