Australia's Biker Problem Update

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Mar 252009
 

In Sydney, police arrested a sergeant-at-arms of the Bandidos motorcycle club after a series of shootings in the city’s south-west as authorities launched a crackdown on biker groups in response to the deadly airport brawl that shocked the country and brought a simmering club war out into the open.

Officials are calling for a uniformed, hard-line set of laws across the country to police the outlaw motorcycle clubs including confiscating the proceeds of club-related crime, limiting the freedom of movement of former club members, including who they may contact and which premises they may visit, and banning former club members from employment in high-risk industries.

The South Australian Serious and Organized Crime Act of 2008, allows the government to declare biker clubs to be prohibited criminal groups, and police to arrest their members for criminal association.  New South Wales is considering adopting the act, however motorcycle clubs have threatened a High Court challenge to the laws.  NSW Premier Nathan Rees said, “I don’t want to introduce laws that are subsequently thrown out by the High Court,” Mr. Rees said he hoped to see a draft of the laws next week, and planned to introduce the legislation during this session of parliament.

Dr Andreas Schloenhardt, Associate Professor at The University of Queensland TC Beirne School of Law, said that the call for the introduction of South Australia’s now infamous Serious and Organized Crime Act to other States is not the solution.  He said a carefully developed and meaningful response to organized crime in Australia was needed instead.

“By adopting the South Australian Act, there is little that can stop the Attorney-General from banning a local bowling club or the opposition party if he feels they pose a public safety risk.  The legislation has inadequate review mechanisms. A better response would be one that aims at the key directors and financiers of criminal organizations and targets the wealth accumulated from drug trafficking, migrant smuggling, trafficking in persons, loan sharking, and other types of organized crime. The Canadian Criminal Code provisions and the US RICO laws provide good examples.”

The current legislation allows the Attorney General to declare ‘a criminal biker club an outlaw organization’ on the basis of police intelligence and hold ‘club members who engage in acts of violence that threaten and intimidate the public’ liable for serious offences.

The fears of a biker invasion come as Prime Minister Kevin Rudd declared “zero tolerance” of biker crime.  Proposals to introduce similar laws in Queensland in 2007 failed. Other States fear that the heavy-handed approach may lead some criminal organizations to go further underground and/or relocate across the border.  Police fear Sydney’s bloody biker war will spread to the Gold Coast as club members flee the battle and a promised police crackdown.

Tensions are already high on the Gold Coast after a Fink was shot and taken to Gold Coast Hospital on Friday – but police have refused to reveal the circumstances surrounding the attack.

Another Fink was last week dragged screaming from Southport Magistrates Court after threatening a magistrate who sentenced him to jail.

With rumors the Hells Angels are planning to challenge for control of the city by opening a Gold Coast chapter, police fear the Sydney club war will spill across the border, the Gold Coast Bulletin reports.

If they come here, we are stuffed,” said one officer.  “The bikers already control this town – the last thing we need is to become a haven for bikers fleeing the laws in South Australia and war in Sydney.  If NSW does toughen up the laws, it will be bad for Queensland. Where else do you think they would go?”

The concern over the South Australian laws has led the federal government to conduct a parliamentary inquiry into anti-organized crime laws. Findings from this report are expected later this year.