The Act at the forefront of this examination is the Criminal Organisations Act; assented to by the Queensland Government on the third of December 2009. The Act was enacted as a supposed "solution" to the alleged rise in bikie related crime. It is defined by the Queensland Government (2009) as:
An Act to provide for the making of declarations and orders for the purpose of disrupting and restricting the activities of organisations involved in serious criminal activity, and of their members and associates, and to make related amendments to other Acts.
The Explanatory Memoranda which was issued alongside the Act as a form of justification for its introduction declares that 'the structure and methods of organised crime [posed] a challenge to the criminal justice system which is generally designed to prosecute and punish isolated crimes committed by individuals' (Queensland Government, 2009). As a result of this apparent inability to target organised crime, the Government went on to say that it hoped that the Act would provide an 'alternate method' of combat. As a result of this justification, the Act allows groups to be punished for the crimes of a single member meaning whole groups of potentially innocent people are being targeted as opposed to just the one or more key members who have committed the offence.
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The implementation of this act as well as the Queensland Government's push to implement anti-bikie gang legislation encourages libel of the innocent and bias within society. After reviewing the legislation however it is evident that this prejudice not only exists within society but extends as far as both the Australian judicial and parliamentary systems. By employing this legislation the Government is disregarding the most rudimentary of all rights; the right to natural justice. Each and every Australian citizen has the fundamental human right to be perceived without bias whether it is actual, imputed or apparent. This right, however, is being denied by the presence of this paradoxical decree.
Under the current anti-bikie legislation the state will be given absolute power to restrict the fundamental rights of association via a closed court. This process will limit the right of the accused's solicitor to test or even see evidence filed against their client (Hurst, 2012). Based on secretly tendered evidence, an organisation can be branded as criminal and a person can be made susceptible to an anti-association order for a maximum term of two years. Mr Sprigborg on the Liberal National party said in 2009 that "This bill is a repugnant attack on the rights and liberties of individuals and will not be supported by the LNP" (Springborg, 2009). He then remarked that members of the party can feel good knowing that they have contested these laws which extinguish centuries of established natural justice rights. He stated that they will also sleep well knowing that they fought to maintain the fundamental right to freedom of association (Hurst, 2012).
The Robina Shopping Centre shooting of 2011 was highly disseminated and widely publicised throughout Queensland. Queenslanders, as well as Australians in general, are expected, encouraged even, to cower at the mention of the words "bikie gang". The media proclaims that all members of bikie gangs are savage outlaws entwined in a vicious black market of money laundering, drug trafficking and arms dealing. The news screams messages about the numerous murders that have alleged ties to bikie gangs such as the infamous Bandidos or Hells Angels but what about the rest of them? The shooting involved two and only two members of rival motorcycle gangs. These two individuals however were not publicised as much for their improper actions but rather for their ties to motorcycle gangs. What about those bikers who pay taxes, work honest jobs, support families or even those on the other end of the spectrum, those who partake in charity rides and deliver teddy bears to sick children?
The now Government backed defamation and slander of those in bikie gangs is unjustly based on the reputation of a select few gang members who are known to participate in organised crime. Many bikers are being incorrectly and unjustly branded as law-breaking, drug dealing criminals and are being grouped with others unlike themselves simply because they have a mutual hobby; they wear gang colours or may have a certain stereotypical appearance about them. A spokesman for the Brotherhood Christian Motorcycle Club Mr Greg HirstÂ states that by banning the insignia etc. associated with being a bikie, the crime and violence itself is not being addressed and in reality only attacks the culture and a certain way of life (Hurst, 2012). Mr. Russel Wattie, former member of an outcast motorcycle club subscribes to the notion that although many bikies involve themselves in criminal activity, these activities are committed by many other individuals and groups within society. He says that a vast 90% of bikies do not partake in illegal pursuits and that it is the remaining 10% that the media and public choose to focus and base their assumptions on. Mr. Wattie asserts that there is little mention about those club members who merely enjoy riding motorcycles and that there is no mention of the bond shared by members let alone the charity activity that many clubs take part in (Maloney, 2012).
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Not only will introducing this ban encourage this libel but it will make those who do not participate in criminal activities guilty by association. This bias has even been adopted by the Queensland judiciary system. Like it or not, says attorney Eric Parker, juries hate bikers. He explains that pinning this hatred and obvious bias on the number of "near misses" experienced by automobile drivers is a significant underestimation of the class struggle between two and four wheel vehicles as well as the vast cultural differences that command their operation (Parker, 2011).The slander of the bikie name has come from overemphasis on a small minority of criminal bikers and with a biased jury the number of supposed criminals is increasing rapidly. The name of a biker is becoming increasingly worse, not necessarily due to actions undertaken by bikers themselves but due to negative public perception, fuelled by undeserved and often inaccurate media in conjunction with overzealous Government focus. The media focuses on the growing number of drive-by shooters and airport brawlers and label them motorcycle riders when, in reality, the majority of them only occasionally throw a leg over a motorcycle. Due to this media speculation the Government has been forced to act but have done so improperly and irrationally.
There is already adequate legislation in place that deals with Criminal Organisations such as bikie gangs and it is solely due to the lack of determination of the Queensland Government that prejudice regulations are being introduced to the state. By employing this legislation and maintaining the Criminal Organisations Act 2009, the Government is encouraging a world in which people are judged for the clothes that they wear simply because they represent a notion unfamiliar to most, a world in which people are criminalised for a hobby that harms none, a world in which one could be incarcerated for spending time with friends and loved ones. The Queensland government is not only slandering a specific group of people but is also compromising the integrity of the state's judiciary systems as has been proven in both New South Wales and South Australia with the overruling of similar decrees.
In 2009 the NSW Government introduced legislation known as the Crimes (Criminal Organisations Control) Act. This was aimed at controlling the behaviours of bikie gangs following an incident at Sydney airport in which Anthony Zervas, a Hells Angels associate, was killed by members of a rival gang known as the Commancheros.Â Although it was created for the purpose of controlling Bikie gangs the word "organisation" is defined as "two or more people" leaving a yawning loophole allowing for ordinary citizens to be targeted; be it accidental or not.. The legislation targeted bikie gangs and attempted to declare them, as well as congregations of motorcycle gang members, unlawful. Under the act, Bikie gang members were prevented from working certain jobs and could have their assets seized by the government, without warning. In 2011 a member of the Hells Angels bikie gang Derek Wainohu applied to have the law declared invalid. In Wainohu v New South Wales the High court ruled that the legislation was indeed invalid as it undermined the institutional integrity of the Supreme Court of NSW due to the lack of obligation to give reasons for making such a declaration. The court also discovered that the laws were outside the parameters of the legislative power of the NSW government (Wainohu v State of New South Wales, 2011). The legislation was established on unsubstantiated bias and is a prime example of how injustice in relation to bikie gangs has infiltrated Australian legislation.
The overruling of biased bikie laws in NSW was then mirrored in 2010 after the South Australian government attempted to implement a similar decree in 2008. It contained a number of similarities to the Crimes Act in addition to eradicating a person's rudimentary right to autonomously refute and contest allegations made against their name (Fewster; Todd, 2010). South Australian Premier Mike Rann's endeavour to do away with bikie gangs was not only grossly unsuccessful but unified, politicised and legalised not only bikie gangs in general but outlaw gangs as well. On top of his attempt to criminalise bikie gangs Mr Rann declared that anyone who associated six or more times with a member of a criminal organisation could be jailed for up to five years (Berkovic & Massola, 2010) meaning that a person could be incarcerated for spending time with friends and family. Not only did this fail flagrantly, the High Court's rejection of the legislation left taxpayers to remunerate hundreds of thousands of dollars to members of the Finks Motorcycle Gang in order to compensate them for legal costs. If the law had not been eradicated, it would have obliged the state's courts to impose control orders on bikies without any evidence being tendered. The High Court ruled that it was unconstitutional as it undermined the independence of judges and forced them to find guilt based solely on assumptions.
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Nicholas Cowdery, New South Wales Director of public prosecutions who incarcerates bikies on a regular basis, believes that the Queensland Criminal Organisations Act will be vetoed for impeding on basic rights. Mr. Cowdery believes that the lack of sophistication of Australian motorcycle gangs compared to those in the US mean that the act will not work in Queensland (REFERENCE). He states that the crimes committed by Australian bikies are ordinary crimes such as drug and vehicle offences which are mostly conducted by individuals and only rarely by a gang. Mr. Cowdery concedes that there are clubs like the Hells Angels which are involved in more sophisticated crimes; specifically the importation, manufacture and distribution of contraband. The majority of motorcycle gangs however are not this organised he adds and states further "I think we are over-reacting to a limited threat of organised criminal conduct for which our existing laws are perfectly adequate" (REFERENCE). Mr. Cowdery understands that whilst the Queensland model may be slightly less objectionable that those enacted in New South Wales and South Australia, he maintains that it is still a substantial divergence from the state's legal principals. He deems the anti-bikie laws to be in direct violation of freedom of association, freedom of expression, the right to work and familial and friendly relationships (REFERENCE).
There is no need for extraordinary measures or intemperate legislative changes. What's needed is probably quite simple. Funding and political support for hard, long haul investigative and prosecutorial work that lasts beyond the excitement of the news cycle, and patience enough to let the police bring to bear the resources they require. Instead of attempting to implement new laws that fundamentally brand all members of motorcycle gangs as criminals, the government should instead be addressing the lack of action being taken by police and dealing with bikers who are breaking the law with legislation already at their disposal. The Criminal Code itself is more than adequate when dealing with any illegal activity by any person in the community, even including 'bikies'. In 1977 a list of key bikies connected to organized crime and illegal activity was identified and yet shortly after the list was compiled Police stopped monitoring the gangs. Due to the inaction of Police, these select members continued to stretch the boundaries and give all bikies a bad name as well as expressing to the public that they are untouchable. The police took on the approach that if you don't look you don't find the problem and if you don't find a problem you don't need to respond with expensive investigations. The irony of this approach is rife due to the fact that they then had to spend even more money on litigation expenses when trying to justify the laws put in place as a result of their refusal to act.
After reading the above report, it has become increasingly clear "The Queensland Government's Criminal Organisations Act 2009 as well as their attempts to implement anti-bikie gang laws are unconstitutional and deny natural justice. The Act and proposed legislation are in no way the most effective mechanisms for dealing with crime committed by members of bikie gangs and were suggested solely due to the lack of action taken by police". However, through the successful implementation of the aforementioned recommendations, these weaknesses could very quickly and easily be repaired, continuing contemporary Australia's reputation of being a safe, multicultural metropolis. Through increasing the speed with which claims are processed there will be fewer cases left awaiting approval, thus allowing for cases involving children to be rushed through the process. Additionally, the recommissioning of offshore facilities allows for more balanced treatment of these refugees, minimizing preferential treatment as well as providing a solid educational and financial base for these people. By making full use of these facilities the extradition process is simplified, as well as safeguarding against unprocessed persons from leaking into the nation. The huge increase in refugees admitted by Australia each year holds a two-fold benefit, adding to the nation's already diverse culture even further, as well as encouraging asylum seekers to await resettlement in camps rather than to risk their lives crossing the ocean. By amending current legislation to encompass the aforementioned resolutions the Australian government would be taking huge steps in the right direction to become a world leader in the immigration law sector, finally providing a safe place for these people to drop anchor.