bikie alert ....
Queensland’s anti-bikie laws – a misnomer because they can apply to any group deemed to be a criminal association – are draconian. They also have a long history in Australia.
The Unlawful Associations Act in the First World War criminalised membership of the Industrial Workers of the World and then the IWW itself. The Wobblies were a syndicalist group of sorts whose anti-conscription popularity and growing influence the Hughes Government wanted to stop.
To make sure they could be painted as criminals, the New South Wales police framed 12 of their members for starting fires in Sydney. A Royal Commission 4 years later found ten of them to have been framed.
During the Cold War Liberal Prime Minister Menzies outlawed the Communist Party. The legislation was held unconstitutional. The Commonwealth had no power to make such laws. The States may have.
The war on terror has mean a creeping authoritarianism in the home countries. Two Australians, Mamdouh Habib and David Hicks, spent years in Guantanamo Bay concentration camp with the complicity of the Australian government. Anti-terrorism laws saw Mohamed Haneef imprisoned without charge for 12 days.
The Northern Territory Intervention criminalises indigenous Australians and removes basic rights from them. This template is now being applied to poor people across Australia.
The Australian Building and Construction Commission removed basic rights from building workers and threatened them with 6 months jail for refusing to answer star Chamber questions. Ark Tribe beat just such a charge on a technicality. The new Liberal Government will attempt to restore the ABCC to its former infamy.
Both Labor and the Liberals have demonised asylum seekers and refugees, with chief racist, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison, issuing a Goebbels-like edict to his staff that they are henceforth to be called illegals. There is nothing illegal about seeking asylum.
New South Wales and South Australia attempted to criminalise bikie gangs a few years ago. The High Court held their laws were invalid.
In New South Wales police used the the consorting laws in that State’s tough anti-bikie laws against a disabled pensioner (dismissed on appeal) and a 16 year old boy having a meal at Hungry Jacks with a friend. After publicity police withdrew the consorting charge.
Victoria has draconian anti-bikie laws too, but the police have not as yet used them. If they do they too will be under constitutional challenge.
Bikies are only a small part (less than one percent according to some experts) of criminal business in Australia. Current laws are adequate to deal with them when they shoot at each other, besiege police stations, run drug syndicates and the like.
To understand why the State is criminalising bikies per se, let’s first have a look at some of the more outrageous aspects of the Queensland anti-bikie laws.
The legislation names 26 groups as criminal organisations, including the Bandidos, Finks and Mongol bikie gangs. Going to a clubhouse, working in a tattoo parlour or riding motorcycles with fellow bikies will see members get six-months in a purpose built bikie jail at Woodford. Refusing to answer questions gets you six months.
There are mandatory additional years ranging from 15 to 25 to be added to crimes if members of the criminal associations commit them. A ten year sentence could become 35 years.
So the likely response is more violence not less. Their thinking might go like this. ’Blast the cops away and you might escape. You are going to get 35 years anyway for the amphetamine factory.’
The anti-bikie law sees the Parliament determine, without trial, that an organisation is unlawful or criminal. It is not restricted to bikie gangs either. Any organisation can be declared a criminal group, including political parties.
Remember this is the Government in Queensland which will crack down on dissent during the G20 meeting in Brisbane. Police will be able to arrest and jail anyone deemed a threat without giving them bail for at least the seven days of the summit. They have on the spot search powers and can prohibit named people from the city.
It looks like we have come full circle. The Unlawful Associations Act of 1916 declared the Wobblies a criminal group. No trial, just a fiat from the State. Almost 100 years later the Queensland government is doing the same thing – a fiat without trial declaring bikie gangs criminal organisations with all the draconian consequences that flow from that.
This isn’t just about bikies. It is about creating a climate of fear and cowering people behind the strong state, the thick blue line ‘protecting’ us.
As the economy continues its long slow decline the demonisation of the enemy within or wanting to be within has moved from ‘terrorists’, asylum seekers, indigenous Australians now to bikies. Political parties of the Left if they were to grow in response to the likely increasingly ferocious attacks on workers and their organisations surely can’t be that far behind.
But that is for the future. The Abbott Liberal government and its State counterparts will ratchet up their strategy of vilification and demonisation against the powerless, the poor, refugees, bikies, indigenous Australians. This lays the groundwork for turning on social welfare recipients – so called dole bludgers and the like – and then on to the defensive organisations of labour, unions. They will ramp up the rhetoric of union thugs and attacks on unions.
An injury to one is an injury to all. To keep and improve current pay, conditions and jobs we will have to fight back against reaction, against all demonisation and vilification, against attacks on unions. If there is hope it lies in the proles.