An Adelaide researcher says Queensland’s new anti-bikie laws are draconian and should not be seen as a format for South Australia or others around the nation to copy.
Dr Gabrielle Appleby of the University of Adelaide says they Queensland Government has rushed legislation through Parliament without adequate scrutiny.
Dr Appleby said fundamental liberties might be infringed.
“We’re talking about freedom from arbitrary detention, the right to a fair trial, the right to free speech and association,” she said.
The laws will mean bikie gang members face a minimum of 15 years in a maximum-security jail on top of their initial sentence, unless they co-operate with police.
Jail terms also apply for riding in groups and wearing club colours in hotels.
“I think we’re seeing, in the organised crime sphere, increasingly sophisticated criminals and there are new issues that are being raised,” Dr Appleby said.
“The question is ‘Are these measures targeting these issues?’
“A lot of the issues arise because witnesses aren’t willing to give evidence against a member of a bikie gang and that’s why it becomes so difficult to convict them of any serious offences. I’m not sure that any of these measures will target those difficulties.”
Dr Appleby said key groups such as the Queensland Law Society were not consulted before the legislation was pushed through Parliament in three days.
“[That] would lean towards a knee-jerk reaction as opposed to a proper deliberation about a very complex issue in our society,” she said.
As for any Constitutional challenge to the legislation: “Every measure will have to be looked at on a case-by-case basis,” Dr Appleby said.
“There are certainly very recent High Court cases that have indicated that mandatory sentencing, for example, is not in breach of the Constitution.
“That’s one of the key planks in the Queensland regime – having an additional mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years for an associate of an organised crime group.”
Dr Appleby said some of the other new offences might be open to challenge.
“There are new offences about associating in public with two or more associates of a criminal group and this may raise real issues about the freedom of political communication that the Constitution protects,” she said.
Some of the Queensland approach may have been modelled on South Australian legislation, but the Newman Government’s approach takes the matter to another level.
“In South Australia, there has been quite a large suite of legislation that’s been enacted to target organised crime and bikie gangs in the state,” Dr Appleby said.
“For example, the control order legislation was first passed in South Australia and later adopted in Queensland.
“South Australia has also introduced, or reintroduced I should say, consorting offences and this is quite similar to the new offences introduced in Queensland, but South Australia doesn’t have anything like the mandatory minimum sentences.”
Dr Appleby said any stringent anti-bikie measures in South Australia would need to be carefully crafted.
“I think that South Australia needs to consider the issues that organised crime groups pose to its community and take a proper deliberation about what measures would be targeted at those issues,” she said.
“I don’t think a knee-jerk reaction, as we’ve seen in Queensland to introduce quite draconian laws without proper debate and consultation, is the answer.”