New South Wales Premier Nathan Rees is today contemplating adopting his South Australian counterpart Mike Rann’s absurd anti-bikie laws. As I noted in Crikey on 1 April last year, these laws are largely unenforceable, cement in law the concept of guilt by association and would do nothing to lessen the problem of bikie gangs’ violence because they completely miss the point — which is that bikie gangs thrive on our refusal to decriminalise drugs.
The Serious and Organised Crime (Control) Act passed through the South Australian Parliament in May last year make the anti-terrorism laws look like a freedom charter.
Under these laws the Attorney-General has right to call an organisation, which could be anything from an informal group of people who meet at the local pub for a weekly drink through to a football club or a business, a Declared Organisation. The Attorney-General can use secret and untested evidence in making that declaration, and his decision can’t be challenged in the courts.
The Commissioner of Police can ask a court to make a Control Order against a person if that person is a member of a Declared Organisation, or regularly associates with members of the Declared Organisation. A Control Order may be issued by a court without giving any notice to the person affected and the Order can stop people from even speaking with members of a Declared Organisation or going anywhere near where members might happen to be. Once again, these Orders can be made on secret evidence that the person affected cannot see.
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If a friend of yours is subject to a Control Order or is a member of a Declared Organisation and you meet with them six times or more in one year you can go to jail for up to five years!
The SA police also have the power to make a Public Safety Order if they are satisfied that a person or a group of people pose a serious risk to public safety or security.
Even if a person or a group is gathered somewhere for a protest rally or a strike action, the police can still make a Public Safety Order and have them removed from the area. These Orders can even be made on the spot, verbally, by the police.
Not surprisingly, South Australian Police are none to keen on enforcing these laws in a hurry because they put their members at risk. And because the laws are so broad in their scope and so offend the principle of natural justice, they will inevitably be pared back by the courts to ensure that innocent people are not criminalized.
Of course, if Australian politicians, from Mr Rudd down, were seriously interested about eroding the power of bikie gangs they would remove the source of much of their wealth and industry — the drugs trade. In 2004 for example, police in New South Wales, South Australia and Queensland, broke the back of a $22 million amphetamine trade coordinated by five bikie gangs.
While we continue to criminalise drug use, and therefore ensure that criminal gangs can make a serious buck out of flogging illegal product, with the super profits that inevitably go with it, then you can expect bikie gangs to be well funded and for events like that which occurred last Sunday in Sydney to keep happening.