Don’t think you could get arrested for having dinner with friends or for catching up for a beer with old mates? Think again. If your friends happen to be members of a bikie gang which is classified criminal then under Queensland’s newly introduced and controversial anti-association laws (Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment Act 2013) it makes this a possibility. Essentially, this law makes a gathering of three or more bikies or their associates unlawful and subjects those charged to solitary confinement on conviction.
Five Queensland men who claim they were on holiday with childhood friends, were not wearing gang colours, and had left their motorbikes at home, were arrested at the Gold Coast Hilton hotel. Police stopped the five men allegedly on their way to buy ice-cream on the Gold Coast on Friday and arrested them. The men were among the first groups to be charged under the laws, which were criticised as violating civil liberties when they were introduced in October.
Under the new laws in Queensland, which have prompted a wave of police operations across the state, the Government can declare any group a criminal organisation without having to present evidence to prove it. Queensland’s anti-association laws criminalise all members and associates of 26 bikie clubs.
Anti-association laws in Western Australia
If you live in WA, anti-associations laws came into effect here towards the end of last year. In WA, the Act dealing with anti-associations laws is the Criminal Organisations Control Act 2012.
Under the Act, police are able to apply to the courts to have a group declared a criminal organisation. A successful application could see members of the organisation face mandatory minimum sentences if they were convicted of a range of serious offences, including associating with other members of the organisation.
Concern of effect of anti-association legislation on civil rights and liberties
In WA and Queensland there is significant concern from public interest groups and human rights groups regarding anti-association laws. The Queensland Law Society (QLS) says new anti-bikie legislation could be used against sporting associations, workplaces and even book clubs.
The president of Freedom Rights Australia said even though the laws were designed to target outlaw motorcycle gangs, they had potential to impact anyone in society. However, WA Attorney General Michael Mischin said that general members of the public have nothing to fear from this legislation. He stated that the defined term ‘associate’ needs to be read in conjunction with those parts of the Act relating to offences by ‘controlled persons’ (Part 4, Division 1, Sub Division 1) and general members of the public do not risk being listed as ‘associates’ by attending motorbike events. Only ‘controlled’ people will be listed.
There are also arguments by former Qld Attorney General Cameron Dick that the Queensland Police Service already possesses extensive powers to attack crime.
Anti-association laws have already been declared unconstitutional in South Australia. On 25 September, a majority of justices in the Supreme Court of South Australia appeal in Totani and Another v The State of South Australia (Totani’s case)  SASC 30 declared that the section of the SA legislation which provides that the Court must make a control order against a person if the court is satisfied that the person is a member of a declared organisation, to be invalid.
There is already a case being brought in Queensland by Sydney barrister Wayne Baffsky, who led the successful High Court challenge to a NSW law that criminalised the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club, who says he will argue the legislation is unconstitutional.
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