Critics fear Queensland’s anti-bikie legislation targeting criminal bikie gangs will result in the harassment of innocent motorcyclists and has been likened to Germany’s 1933 persecution of Roma and Jews.
The Vicious Lawless Associate Disestablishment Bill (VLAD) is directed at groups of three or more people presumed to be conducting unlawful acts.
Innocent groups could be stopped, searched, arrested and charged and would have to prove they were not performing illegal activities in the course of their association or face 25 years in jail.
“It’s not just about Queensland,” said Lance Priestley, participant at Occupy Sydney. “We have in place the equivalent in NSW which is the Criminal Organisation Control Act.
“The NSW Government has selected not to [apply them] as of yet but the danger for the rest of the states is if any of this stuff gets through the High Court [in Queensland] they apply in all the other states.”
The NSW legislation embraces the Queensland model and grants the Supreme Court powers to declare an organisation as criminal.
Cameron Murphy, national secretary of the Council for Civil Liberties, expressed concern that such laws could persecute people for being a member of a particular organisation.
“One of the fundamental principles is that everyone is treated equally before the law and we have laws being passed and considered in the future that would seem to treat people differently,” he said.
“So if you commit a crime you might get one punishment and then if you happen to be someone that rides a motorcycle or is a member of a controlled organisation you get a completely different punishment.”
Thousands of bikies protested against Queensland’s VLAD laws at the weekend with similar protests in Victoria and NSW, where up to 500 people gathered outside Parliament House in Sydney.
Mr Priestley highlighted Germany’s interest in the case and compared Campbell Newman’s laws to Hitler’s laws targeting Jews and Roma.
“One of the interesting indicators for us in Sydney was the most media interest shown was actually from Germany – they told us that there is widespread interest because they are comparing what Campbell Newman is doing with what Hitler did in 1933,” he said.
“Where Campbell Newman’s legislation is, is where Hitler’s legislation was in relation to Roma and Jews. The German people sat back and said nothing when those laws just applied to them – then those laws were applied more widely and more widely.”
Andy Hargs, a Sydney Trains employee who attended the rally, expressed fear that he would be targetted while riding with friends.
“I just want to go out for a peaceful ride with my mates,” he said. “I don’t want to be pulled over being told my rights, ‘take your shirt off we want to see your tattoos’, [or] sit down for 20 minutes while they check your background – all that sort of stuff.”
Mr Hargs felt the laws go too far.
“I can understand to a point them doing it to the right sort of people but you get a lot of stories of police targeting the wrong people.”
Legislation recently brought into force in Victoria will allow courts to suspend or cancel the driving licence of any person convicted or found guilty of an offence.
Mr Cameron warned that ill thought-out policies would create laws that end up being abused.
“You have got the Queensland government making bad law on the run and that is putting political pressure on other states where people are saying: ‘What are you doing?’”
“Then it becomes like a contagious disease where before long we will be having state governments all across Australia seeking to emulate these ridiculous and crazy proposals we’ve seen in Queensland.”
Mr Newman’s office did not respond to requests for comment.