Barrister says Abbott took him out of context over Heydon controversy

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Julian Burnside QC, a prominent human rights barrister, told the ABC this morning that his comments about trade union royal commissioner Dyson Heydon were taken out of context by the government during question time yesterday.

“As was pointed out by someone who is no great friend of this Government, Julian Burnside QC, Dyson Heydon is a man of honour ... Dyson Heydon is a man of honour,” the Prime Minister said in defence of Justice Heydon, whose impartiality to the commission was questioned after reports he was scheduled to give a speech at a Liberal Party fundraiser.

“They will grasp at any straws they can,” Burnside told the ABC.

“I don't think they would see me as a natural source of support, but the fact is I do have a high regard for Dyson Heydon.”

Justice Heydon claimed last week that he had overlooked the connection between the Sir Garifield Barwick address he was scheduled to give and the Liberal Party, but it has since been revealed that Justice Heydon was on the committee in the 1980s that awarded Abbott his Rhodes Scholarship.

“The more his connections with the Liberal Party become apparent, the more difficult it is to give him the benefit of the doubt,” said Burnside.

“But I still think that he's an honourable person.”