Dyson Heydon doesn’t have a PC, does not know how to email


news The beleagured head of the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption has admitted he does not use a computer at either of his several offices and does not know how to send and receive emails, being completely dependent upon his personal assistant to do so.

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72-year-old John Dyson Heydon is one of the most respected figures in Australia’s legal community. Heydon served as a Justice on Australia’s High Court from 2003 to 2013. The former justice has previously served as Dean of the Sydney Law School and graduated from the University of Sydney and the University of Oxford (attending Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar). He is currently serving as Commissioner of the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption.

However, despite his extensive qualifications and legal experience — and despite the fact that much of today’s legal documentation is accessed primarily through computer terminals — this morning Commissioner Heydon admitted he did not have a computer and did not know how to send emails.

This morning Heydon released his ruling relating to an application by the Australian Council of Trade Unions that he step down from his position due to perceptions of bias from his plans to give a legal speech that would also serve as a Liberal Party fundraiser. In his reasons for denying the application, Commissioner Heydon noted that he could not have taken certain actions due to his lack of technical knowledge.

“At the outset, it should be noted that there is evidence that I have no computer and that all email correspondence is sent and received by my personal assistant,” Heydon wrote. “Indeed it is notorious among the legal profession that I am incapable of sending or receiving emails. The consequence is that I read emails only after they have been printed out for me.”

Heydon noted that he did not have a computer either at his own chambers, or at the facilities of the Royal Commission.

“The ‘doctoring’ question arose out of a misunderstanding,” Heydon wrote in relation to one issue regarding certain email correspondence. “The misunderstanding has now been cleared up by those who are familiar with emails – a class of which I am not a member.”

“… if anyone altered the email, it was not me – an inevitable and completely proper concession in view of my complete incapacity to do any such thing,” he noted.

Delimiter does not allege that Heydon’s inability to send or receive emails has any bearing on his work, either with the Commission or previously in his judicial roles.

However, in his role at the High Court, Heydon did previously make judgements — as part of a wider bench — on technology-related cases. For example, Heydon was one of the justices who ruled on (PDF) the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s lawsuit against Google regarding sponsored links on Google’s search engine.

It appears that news of Heydon’s lack of technical understanding regarding computers and email was first highlighted by Crikey journalist Josh Taylor on Twitter. Taylor also first highlighted the Google case.

In my opinion, Heydon should take the time to get to understand the email platform and computers in general, with particular reference to the Internet. I don’t believe age to be a significant barrier to accessing technology, and certainly not in this case. Heydon is one of the best and most experienced minds in Australia’s legal community. A deeper understanding of technology would aid him in his work.

Aside from anything else, I would not personally want to be wholly dependent upon anyone else — as Heydon clearly is upon his personal assistant — for access to fundamental communications.

Then too, it’s not as though email is a new technology. It’s been popular for at least 20 years, meaning that Heydon would only have been in his early 50’s when it started popping up all around him. One does wonder how precisely he has managed to avoid gaining knowledge of it for two decades now.

Image credit: Apple, Dylan327


    • Due to his unfamiliarity with technology, he wouldn’t know that it was a computer, since it was neither a PC nor a desktop. His assistant Siri keeps him at arms length from any perceived bias.

  1. How he avoided it for 20 years?

    The same as my parents, who are in his age bracket, its only past 12 months my dad has bothered with it, and he still only turns it on once every few months, no one in our family emails dad, because there’s no guarantee he’ll bother turning on his laptop, letalone reading email LOL.

    There are plenty of elderly folk who avoid technology, dont assume because we love technology that everyone else does, because the evidence shows otherwise.

  2. Sad that a judge would seek to hide his bias by claiming ignorance. He has already demonstrated bias in his questioning and interjection. Why do my tax dollars go for this farce of a Royal Commission that is clearly arranged with the goal of providing fuel for Abbott and Co to spit up one liners, rather than ending corruption.

    • Its a little ironic, isnt it?

      To me, the problem goes deeper though. For a key decision maker to be so out of touch with how the modern world works questions whether he actually IS qualified for the job hes doing. What if this commission comes down to the wording in an email, and the intent of something? Emails arent letters, and I’m not sure he can grasp the difference between written correspondence, and whats essentially instant communication.

      Its a glaring omission and just adds to the question of bias.

      • Rather similar to our beloved leader though, you know, the one that delights in not being Bill Gates?

  3. “Dyson Heydon doesn’t have a PC, does not know how to email”

    Therefore he is a Liberal, QED.

  4. It is difficult to see how it is possible to make a meaningful assessment of claims about Google is you have no idea about computers.
    Unfortunately, ignorance of technical issues is a common problem with the legal system in general. For instance, the first serious investigation of the reliability of fingerprint evidence as used in court was published in … wait for it … 2010. In fact there are major problems with a wide variety of “CSI” type evidence that have been routinely ignored in courts. For another example, ignorance of statistics and probability on the part of the court led to tragic consequences in the case of sally Clarke (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sally_Clark).

  5. I guess he doesn’t have a dog to blame his missing homework on then? PA: 2nd best excuse eva!


  6. One does wonder how precisely he has managed to avoid gaining knowledge of it for two decades now.

    One word: disdain

    Also printing out emails should be illegal. It’s 2015 ffs.

    • He’s clearly a liberal, they are only to happy wreck the environment for their own personal gain.

      • Oh I don’t give a crap about the environment. It should be illegal because it’s so stupid one could face palm so hard it could cause death when hearing about it :-)

    • Well….Dyson was 32 when the Internet was “invented”…I’m sure in the following 38 years “email” was something a bit “difficult” to “pick up”…oh, who am I kidding, he’s full of shit…

      • Though I do have to say, i think the RC into the whole thing is worth while…I’d also like to see a Royal Commission in to the LNP/NBN/mining if the ALP get in…

        Edit: In fact I’d like to see a standing RC that checks whomever wins an election, but I’m guessing our pollies would never allow that…

      • The reason I’m opposed to the the RC is that it has been expressly forbidden from looking at associated corporate bad behavior so is very one sided. The reason for this is last time the libs had an RC into unions it embarrassed a lot of their corporate mates.

        • This^

          It’s a shame the public can’t trigger an RC with enough folks signing a petition or something, there is just as much dodgy stuff going on in corporate Aus as anything the unions are doing.

  7. My single biggest point of contention on this issue is the fact that he reviews his own suitability. That is just so wrong on all counts and there is only ever going to be one result as we have seen. It just beggars belief that he can self assess his own impartiality.
    One point that should be corrected in the article is “Heydon is one of the most respected figures in Australia’s legal community”. I think a fair assessment would be NOT ANY MORE HE AINT!. After what we have seen thus far leading Abbott’s witch hunt I would put him at the same level as LNP members.

  8. Dyson does not know how to “do” emails
    Dutton and his office never read emails from the Victorian head of Border Farce
    The attorney General and his office did not look beyond the first worksheet in an Excel attachment in the Man Monis (Lindt Sydney) cover up.
    Seems that the current Government need a bit of educating. maybe the man who invented the internet, Turnbull, could earn a few extra dollars doing a bit of tutoring.

    • Yeah, but in his defence Dutton is a dumb as a plank ex copper from Queensland (say no moah) who excelled in stuffing up the Health portfolio before moving on to the blackshirts…

  9. Today’s…I don’t know…revelations? From Hayden are….Jesus…can our legal system be that far out of touch?

    I…just..man…what can you say. I’m a “boomer” and I’m pretty concerned that that our legal system can’t keep up with things but…Jebus, he should recuse himself because he just doesn’t “get it” if he can’t do even basic email…

  10. Dyson Heydon was expected to put himself in the role of the reasonable man’s perception of bias. The reasonable man uses email. Ego he was not qualified to pass judgment on his own role. In addition why did he inquire into pink batts and the Julia Gillard issue given both had already been investigated by other enquiries. Would that not lead to an apprehension of bias?

  11. Bit sick of all the ’eminently respected’ bullshit when it comes to lawyers and their walled garden of privilege and deceit too…

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