Unfortunately, Australia has never been really committed to the “war on drugs”. And, unfortunately, the Australian Crime Commission, the AFP, Customs, every state police force and the ATO have failed miserably to halt, reduce or even affect a significant dent in the importation, manufacture and distribution of amphetamines. The threat and the damage wrought by these drugs is costly and real.

The largest source of these drugs are the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs or OMCGs as they are known in the police vernacular. Approximately 40 gangs of various sizes exist in Australia with local or nationally distributed chapters. The main players are the Hells Angels, Rebels, Gypsy Jokers, Bandidos and Finks. These are, by any definition and assessment, organised crime gangs with a predilection for violence and extortion. Their ranks include lawyers, accountants and other professionals able and willing to launder money through finance companies, hold and hide assets and engage in other behavior with the sole aim of ensuring their criminal profits remain intact and grow.

In reality they constitute the largest terrorist threat to Australia. Jammah Islamiah, Al Qaeda and sundry other terrorist groupings are, of course, real. But the total cost of damage and destruction wrought by their activities on Australian soil is zero.

Not so the bikies. Estimates vary, but the cost of their activities, with around 3,500 hard core members and a significantly larger number of associates and sympathisers, is around the $2.2 billion per annum. Total deaths directly attributable over the last 10 years is 38, and this doesn’t include assaults, theft, extortion, indirect deaths arising from drug distribution, or their general terrorising and intimidation.

Since coming into government on the back of promises of clearing the streets of these scum, the South Australian Premier Mike Rann has successfully closed no bikie-associated businesses or fortresses. He has not removed a single gang from SA streets. Similarly, the OMCG presence in every state but WA has persisted and grown, not necessarily visually, but certainly in terms of criminal activity. WA has been the only state where police have actually had some impact, although that has waned over the last three years. The ACC has proved monumentally ineffective and drug seizures by Customs and AFP, so prominently displayed on national television, represent at best an estimated 3 or 4 % of imports or manufactured material. True, this is an increase on previous efforts and is to be commended, but it is still relatively small.

More worrying are the extended links with North American outfits, especially the HAMC, Bandidos and (covertly) the Rock Machine. The BC HAMC (British Columbia), with chapters or activities in Nanaimo, Victoria, Vancouver and elsewhere, are one of the richest, if not the richest, OMCGs in the world. Almost all of the amphetamine trade and trade in illicit weapons is undertaken by American OMCGs.

While the international terrorist threat by extremist Islamics is real and high profile, the actual terrorist activity is currently being executed under our very noses. Yet no anti-terrorist legislation has been invoked by the Federal Government against these criminal organizations and ASIO has been noticeable by its absence in the fight against OMCGs.

The terrorist threat is very real and it lives just around the corner. It is that “rough diamond”, that annual participant in the charity Toy Run, that “harmless” character who is sticking a needle in your kid’s arm and supplying the truckie that wipes your mates’ family out on the highway. Also, increasingly, he’s your accountant or lawyer.

That is where the intercepts, listening devices and counter terrorism legislation needs to be applied.

Nigel Paterson, Publisher/editor of the Cycle Torque Motorcycle Newspaper, writes: Yet again the media has tarred all motorcyclists as troublemakers and threats to society, thanks to the actions of a few. Crikey recently published an article which claimed the threat to society posed by Bikie gangs was far greater than from terrorism. The article’s credibility is called into question, however, by the sweeping and obviously inaccurate assertions near the end which said the “rough diamond, that annual participant in the charity Toy Run, that ‘harmless’ character who is sticking a needle in your kid’s arm and supplying the truckie that wipes your mates’ family out on the highway. Also, increasingly, he’s your accountant or lawyer.” This is blatant nonsense. To imply any sort of significant proportion of the motorcycling public — and that’s who attends charity Toy Runs — have any involvement in organised crime is so ridiculous it casts into doubt the rest of the article. Motorcyclists are a diverse group of people. Many share a passion for two wheeled transport although increasingly the general public is seeing the benefits of motorcycles and especially scooters, which are selling in record numbers. Current new bike sales in Australia are running at close to 100,000 a year, comprising everything from children’s bikes through scooters to off-road competition machinery and on to farm ATVs, sports road bikes, cruisers and touring motorcycles. It only takes a glance at the variety of two-wheeled machinery available to realise the purchasers come from all walks of life. Toys Runs have been run for close to 30 years in many parts of Australia — Cycle Torque promoted 21 in the December 2005 issue. They attract many, many thousands of motorcyclists giving hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of donations to the needy around Christmas time. Is the author trying to say Bikie Gangs are involved in Toy Runs simply to make themselves look good to the public? I’m sure the Salvation Army and the other beneficiaries of the various Toy Runs around the country would not appreciate being linked to organised crime, even in this small way. If Crikey is going to publish opinion pieces it should put a name to them. If it is going to use anonymous sources the facts should be checked, and broad, sweeping statements with no basis in fact removed.

Neale Brumby, Publisher of HEAVY DUTY Magazine, writes: I’m 49 years old, ridden motorcycles all my life, and publish a Harley-Davidson magazine in Melbourne called HEAVY DUTY. I also have four kids and don’t force narcotics upon them, or supply them needles. To cut to the chase, because any more than a few minutes on this is a waste of my time, the second last para in your piece on OMCGs was a beat-up of the highest order. I have heard the “bad bikie” crap all my life but the OMCGs do not represent me, or any of my mates. Associating me with them p-sses me off and I would love to see you stand up at this years Toy Run and tell the participants that they are bikie terrorists. In summary, you’re ignorant of your subject matter. Nothing wrong with being ignorant except if you decide to display it in public.

Andrew Beecher, General Manager, Marketing & Business Operations at carsales.com.au, writes: I have to write in defence of what was a fairly cheap shot at an event that we hold in the highest regard, being the MRAA Toyrun. Carsales.com.au has now been involved as a major sponsor of the Toyrun for two years. Not only do many of our staff and management participate in the ride, but we all work on the charity fund raising aspect also. Last year alone bikesales.com.au presented a cheque for over $6,000 to the Salvos – all money generously donated by a bunch of people that had no other agenda apart from getting together as a community and giving something back to society. The Toyrun has an atmosphere just as family friendly as any event – in fact more so due to the very nature of the type of people that are prepared to get up on a weekend close to Christmas, after spending their own money on sometimes excessively generous gifts for underprivileged kids. No other group of road users even attempts this sort of community minded event, and I’m personally disgusted to have a flippant and ignorant comment from an unnamed source attempt to tarnish an event that does nothing but good.