Doubt cast over Vic Gov plan to outlaw bikie gangs

21st Nov 2012

Australian Lawyers Alliance member John Suta, who acts on behalf of nine members of the Wangaratta-based Tramps Motorcycle Club, today expressed serious doubts as to whether the proposed Victorian government legislation, to outlaw bikie gangs, will be legally enforceable in the state.

He also questioned the motivation and timing of the Victorian Chief Commissioner’s written request to Mr Suta to stay for 28 days any legal proceedings against the Victorian Police for unlawfully seizing club members’ firearms to allow the commissioner time to review his obligations under section 51 (1) of the Victorian Firearms Act 1996.

Mr Suta suspects the delay is to allow the Criminal Organisation Control Bill, currently before Victorian Parliament, to be passed. The Bill seeks to prevent High Court challenges to such seizure of assets, as has happened in NSW, South Australia and now underway in Queensland, by enabling the police to apply to court to have a club declared as a threat to community safety.

“The politically motivated ‘tough anti-bikie laws’ introduced in other states, have so far proved ineffective, with successful High Court challenges to the legislation resulting in NSW and South Australia dumping theirs after they were found to be unconstitutional,” Mr Suta said.

“Governments continue to pursue them because they attract voters drawn to such political posturing as being indicative of a strong government, but such laws are not only unnecessary, but dangerous as the delicate equilibrium between police protection and civil rights goes out of balance.

"We have already seen an extreme example of this when a NSW coroner recently finding excessive use of force by police led to the needless death of a Brazilian student,” he said.

Mr Suta said the promotion of this law was really about creating a greater sense of security for the state government and that rather than make the community safer, it would have the opposite effect.

“This is an unnecessary taxpayer expense. The Victorian government should have waited for the outcome of the latest High Court challenge in Queensland, due to be heard on 4 and 5 December 2012, before it started pushing for similar laws in this state,” Mr Suta said.

Mr Suta said the proposed legislation could potentially target all sorts of organisations, not just motorcycle clubs. It could be used to disband trade unions, sporting clubs and all manner of other associations deemed unsavoury by those in power. Will it be necessary to ‘declare’ all such organisations?

“Such legislation is repugnant and akin to efforts by the Menzies Government in the 1950s to ban the Communist Party. The proposed laws are undemocratic, focus on groups and not individuals and, like similar legislation in other countries, will not only be ineffective but counter-productive,” he said.

Mr Suta said politicians and police were simply attempting to stoke public fear for their own ends and Australians must always be mindful of potential political motivation behind the impetus to alter existing laws.

“All elements of society have ‘bad eggs’. The criminal justice system in Victoria is already strong enough to deal with such criminal behaviour."

Tags: Victoria Criminal justice police powers