In the last few weeks our Government has taken unprecedented short cuts to “fast track” new laws in what we are told is a move by the Government motivated by a desire to “protect the community”.
These changes include, but are not limited to, the introduction of the Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment Act, as well as amendments to the Bail Act to ensure that obtaining bail is extraordinarily difficult for any person accused of being a member of any criminal organisation or association.
The Government’s introduction and amendments of these Acts highlight how little experience and insight our Attorney General and Premier have in relation to our Justice System and its principles. In order to attempt to garner public support there seems to have been endless propaganda filtered into the media directly by the Government with no concern as to the accuracy of details or actual intent of these pieces of Legislation and their effect on society.
The prospect of sentencing a person to a period of custody of which they must serve each and every day (and a term similar to one generally imposed following a conviction of murderer) simply because of the fact they ride motorbikes and are a part of a club, is deeply concerning and presents a blatant disregard for our constitution and our rights as citizens of a “free country”.
Despite guarantees from the Government to the contrary, the Vicious Lawless Disestablishment Act doesn’t simply stop at outlaw motorcycle clubs, it reaches far beyond that. The term “bikie” or motorcycle club/gang do not rate one single mention within the entire act. The definition of association contained within the act is as follows:
In this Act—
association means any of the following—
- (a) a corporation;
- (b) an unincorporated association;
- (c) a club or league;
- (d) any other group of 3 or more persons by whatever name called, whether associated formally or informally and whether the group is legal or illegal.
The Attorney General and the Premier are attempting convince those in society who are not particularly familiar with the justice system by making outlandish and baseless suggestions such as ‘all members of bikie gangs are drug dealers’ or ‘all bikie gang members are criminals’. These are absurd statements that are plainly wrong and not supported by any actual statistics; rather it is simply an attempt to scare the people to ensure that the Government is seen to be doing something proactive prior to an election next year.
The Attorney General and Premier have insulted the legal fraternity on numerous occasions throughout their campaign to “rid the state of criminal gangs” by expressing that we, as members of the legal fraternity, should get out of our “ivory towers” and understand what the greater public wants and needs. As a member of the legal fraternity I am insulted by the suggestion that we live in “ivory towers”, when we are the ones in Court on a daily basis dealing with the consequences of our laws and ensuring people are afforded justice and the right to a fair hearing.
The suggestion we live in ivory towers is particularly offensive given the Attorney General used to be seen walking down George Street on an almost daily basis however since the introduction of these laws has not been sighted and appears firmly entrenched in his “ivory tower” with the Premier in the Executive Law Building, which I note has had an added Police presence in recent times.
It seems that members of our Government may have been watching too many US television shows such as “Sons of Anarchy”, and believe that we have a mob of outlaws who are holding the State to ransom, willing to do almost anything to get their own way. This simply untrue and any member of Government who attempts to persuade otherwise has not been to court and seen the reality of the demographic passing through our criminal justice system. Statistics reveal that members and associates of Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs contribute less than 1% of Queensland’s overall crime.
Justice Fryberg made a stance against the Government recently when he was so concerned about the erosion of the separation of powers that he felt that he could not properly hear an application to revoke a man’s bail. The prosecutions brought this application on the basis that the man should be considered a member of a bikie gang. The reaction by the Premier was slanderous towards Justice Fryberg and he had his employees’ hand out information regarding Justice Fryberg’s decision to release a sex offender to parole a decade earlier, hinting that he was a “paedophile sympathiser”.
This is a childish and offensive response, indicative of someone who cannot adequately deal with these contentious issues through informed debate. Throughout this entire process the Government has avoided any tough questions by learned people such as Mr Tony Fitzgerald, Justice Fryberg and others. The Government’s reaction is to offer “no comment” when the answer to a question either does not suit them or which may expose the truth behind these reforms which were made with a distinct lack of insight or intellect.
Another example of political manoeuvring or propaganda to ensure the Government keeps the State sufficiently concerned by these so called “threats”, is the headline in the Courier Mail on 1 November 2013, suggesting that Police had intelligence that a biker group has passed down orders to kill Police rather than be arrested. If nothing else, this is a highly convenient article the morning after the Government was criticised by a Supreme Court Justice and more so, one must question the validity of an article allegedly leaked by the Police Union about extremely sensitive information that, if published, would actually put its own members at further risk. Information such as this, if it is in fact true, is ordinarily actioned swiftly and silently without leaking the material to the media.
In 2012 an innocent women was shot at Robina Shopping Centre by a member of a motorcycle club, who it appeared was targeting a member of a rival motorcycle club. This woman was an entirely innocent member of the public going about her ordinary business when this terrible act of violence was inflicted upon her. The Government’s reaction to this shooting of an innocent civilian was deathly silent. There was no debate in relation to toughening gun laws or the use of weapons or even targeting members of outlaw motorcycle clubs.
Why in 2013 does a relatively minor street fight, with no injuries to any civilian, garner so much knee-jerk reaction and be so serious that the Government refuses to go through the appropriate channels in order to draft, discuss and enact legislation? It appears convenient that John-Paul Langbroek, a member of the Newman Government, was a witness to this brawl on the night in question.
Why does the Government go to these lengths due to one of ‘their own’ witnessing a brawl when nothing is done to protect a civilian being shot in public 12 months earlier?
Queenslanders should be concerned about this government and we in the legal fraternity will continue to be outspoken about how wrong, offensive and damaging this legislation is to the integrity of our justice system. Many people perhaps don’t appreciate why we are seen to stand up for the rights of “bikies” however, the truth is that we are offended by the erosion of our human right to associate with anyone we see fit, without being labelled a criminal.