Page 1705 - Week 05 - Wednesday, 1 April 2009

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I do not say categorically that this nation or this jurisdiction must not seek new ways to combat organised crime by gangs or that new approaches to law enforcement are not called for. I do suggest that it is reasonable not to slavishly follow another place or engage in a bidding war for the title of the toughest state or territory on bikies. This past weekend our city witnessed an influx of motorcyclists, many hundreds of them club members, at a time of heightened emotion in the bikie scene and heightened anxiety in the community. Yet our fine police, ACT Policing, dealt with that influx professionally, calmly, and with existing laws at their disposal.

When the South Australian government introduced its Serious and Organised Crime (Control) Bill in 2007 to provide for the making of declarations and orders for “the purpose of disrupting and restricting the activities of criminal organisations, their members and associates”, it did so because its evidence showed that outlaw motorcycle gangs remained prominent within the criminal class of South Australia and continued to expand. It is relevant to note that police in that state had reported to the government that outlaw motorcycle gangs were involved in many and continuing criminal activities including murder; drug manufacture, importation and distribution; fraud; vice; blackmail; intimidation of witnesses; serious assaults; the organised theft and re-identification of motor vehicles; public disorder offences; firearm offences; and money laundering. The South Australian government made its decisions in relation to motorcycle gangs on the basis of that sort of advice. In addition, outbreaks of violence between rival gangs were believed to pose a risk to public safety.

The same is not being said of the ACT’s bikie culture or our crime trends. The opposition asserts, with its usual hyperbole and hysteria and lack of evidence, that, if we do not follow the proposed law of New South Wales word for word, hordes of outlaws will move to the ACT. Indeed, last week, and I see it repeated again this week, the opposition were actually asserting that we would become an oasis for bikies. I am not quite sure which dictionary they consulted in coming to this conclusion. The Australian Oxford describes an oasis as “an area of calm in the midst of turbulence”. What the opposition probably intended to suggest was that if the ACT does not instantly adopt New South Wales laws the bikie gangs will pack up their saddlebags, start their motors, and relocate en masse to the national capital.

Of course, that is precisely what the opposition said in 2005 in relation to the anti-terrorism legislation of the Howard government—that the national capital would become the home of every terrorist organisation and aspiring and emerging terrorist in Australia; that we would become a safe haven for Al-Qaeda, for the Taliban and for every other terrorist organisation in existence. The language being used today by Mr Hanson and the Liberal Party in relation to bikie gangs is exactly the language that was used in 2005 by the then leader Brendan Smyth, Bill Stefaniak and the Liberal Party in this place. The language is identical: legislate now or risk being inundated with terrorists; legislate now or risk being inundated with outlaw bikies. Forget, of course, about those inconvenient considerations such as proportionality or workability or necessity or evidence. The opposition say: “Forget about evidence. Just legislate now, today.”

Mr Corbell’s motion, the motion that we should support, is all about compiling an evidence base that will allow the ACT to determine whether or not tougher laws are

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