Proposed anti-bikie laws infringe too far on rights and freedoms

16th Nov 2023

Proposed new powers which will allow police to prevent convicted criminals from associating in Victoria go too far and will unfairly restrict individual’s rights to freedom of association and political expression.  

A coalition of Victorian legal organisations says that the proposals to give police the power to order bikie gang members to remove club colours, patches, insignia and symbols in public and to ban convicted criminals from associating impinge too far on individual rights.

The Australian Lawyers Alliance, Liberty Victoria, Inner Melbourne Community Legal Police Accountability Project and the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service are concerned that the new powers proposed by the Department of Justice and Community Safety after a review of Victoria’s Criminal Organisations Control Act 2012 will give too much power to police.

“Giving police in Victoria more power and discretion without stronger and more meaningful oversight is a dangerous step,” said Jeremy King, spokesperson for the Australian Lawyers Alliance. “The proposed plan to give IBAC further monitoring tasks simply increases the strain on an organisation that already cannot cope with its current police misconduct remit.

“What Victorians need now is not more powers for police, but a police ombudsman to ensure the powers police do have are being used correctly.

“Victorians should be very concerned about giving more powers to Victoria police without ensuring well-resourced independent oversight is in place.”

The proposed police powers specifically infringe too far on rights and freedoms, according to this coalition of legal organisations.

“It is very concerning that people will lose the right to be able to associate with anyone they would like, to wear a uniform as a member of a particular organisation, and to even travel to certain places here and abroad,” said Jeremy.

“Crime exists in all social groups, in all professions and in all organisations of any size.

“We know that so-called anti-association laws targeting bikie gangs have been abused in other jurisdictions in Australia.”

The coalition has particular concerns about the impact of the proposal on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“Any proposed reforms must reflect the inherent rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to engage in cultural practices and enjoy their connection to their culture and community as protected in Victoria’s Human Rights Charter and international human rights instruments,” said Nerita Waight, CEO, Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service.

“This right cannot be limited to a list of prescribed practices or traditions. Rather, engaging in and connecting with one’s culture is inseparable from a person and their identity. Any engagement with a person’s community, culture, Country and kin is an act of connecting with culture; and a person’s ability to do this must not be limited by the language of the Act.”

Tags: Human rights police powers Victoria Police