Experts have criticised the New South Wales Government's plans to introduce anti-bikie laws, calling them "draconian" and "reactionary".
Premier Nathan Rees promised that new legislation could be drafted as early as next week based on South Australian laws that allow the Attorney-General to declare a criminal bikie gang an outlaw organisation on the basis of police intelligence. Police can then arrest members for criminal association.
Associate Professor Michael Head from the University of Western Sydney told Lawyers Weekly the laws introduced a set of draconian powers, powers which have previously been established in areas such as terrorism.
"It's disturbing that the first response here is that it is simply a question of beefing up law and order somehow," he said.
"As happens a lot these days, you have a rather egregious incident - in this case a bashing death at an airport - which becomes a pretext for introducing powers that would ordinarily arouse great public opposition. So we are presented with a seemingly emergency type of situation, as we did with the terrorism scenarios, to create a climate where these powers are handed over to governments which are really quite far-reaching.
"Now this is being presented as 'bikie laws' but, of course, those measures can extend far beyond bikies or terrorists - they can extend to anybody or any group of people ... a government alleges are planning or proposing to or discussing serious criminal activity which the government says is a risk to public safety and order," he said.
Andrew Martin, a barrister who helped prosecute the "Milperra Massacre" case at which seven people were killed as a result of a clash between motorcycle gangs the Comancheros and the Bandidos, told Lawyers Weekly the proposed laws were nonsense.
"What are they going to do? [Take action] every time a group of young boys with testosterone get together around a singular activity? They're going to be engaged in group behaviour that people find publicly obnoxious, that includes surfers, football clubs, football supporter clubs [and] dart clubs ... [Will they] go around and start banning associations all over the place?" he asked.
"My question about this whole sort of situation is 'Why the hell do you need any change in the law?' A closer association between the Crime Commission and the police in regard to this issue being treated as one of organised crime [is needed]."
Dr Andreas Schloenhardt, from the University of Queensland TC Beirne School of Law, also cautioned police and legislators against adopting ill-conceived reactionary measures.
"By adopting the South Australian Act, there is little that can stop the Attorney-General from banning a local bowling club or the opposition party if he feels they pose a public safety risk," he said. "The legislation has inadequate review mechanisms.
"A better response would be one that aims at the key directors and financiers of criminal organisations and targets the wealth accumulated from drug trafficking, migrant smuggling, trafficking in persons, loan sharking, and other types of organised crime."
- Sarah Sharples
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