Who’s to blame over bikie laws?

Angry emailers blame civil liberties groups for bikie laws being overturned by the High Court. But it wasn’t us – we told governments the laws were over the top, and would be ruled invalid in the High Court. Governments and MPs should have heeded the constructive criticism from CLA and similar groups and prevented bad laws making it through parliaments.

Email to CLA from NSW:  it is nice to know u support murdererous bikies drugs and public dissorder.i fell really safe now.please explain if u can.

REPLY from CLA:  Dear Garry

Civil liberties people argue for the liberties and freedoms of every person, against excessive laws of the state which reduce, or entirely eliminate, individual rights.

People say such laws are Big Brother, Stalinist, Nazi…or that the authorities are creating a ‘nanny state’, where you can’t run your own life and make your own choices. 

The Nazi historical reference illustrates why civil liberties people continue to fight a very uphill battle, not for now but for what might happen.  The laws in Germany in the 1930s were not bad laws: they were just so wide open that the Nazis could use them in ways never intended when the laws were first passed by parliament.  

The “bikie” laws were passed in NSW, and throughout the rest of Australia, because the authorities “mirrored” (copied) the one bad law which began in SA. The spread of the “bikie” laws shows how widely and how quickly bad law can permeate a nation.

The “bikie” law was not bad because it was designed to rein in bikie gangs, stop thuggery and standover tactics, bashings and murders. Civil liberties people do not support bikies’ breaking the law.

It was bad because it allowed the State Government – actually the Police Commissioner and Attorney-General – to basically “declare” any group (not just bikies – any group) to be a criminal organisation, and to secure a “control” order over them. 

The Police Commissioner did not have to gather evidence, go before a court and prove his case before a jury or judge, which is how Australia’s justice system normally operates. The organisation could be “declared” without knowing or being informed, or being able to put a counter case, like you can normally do in a court. Because there were no protections against mis-use of the law, against bikies and everyone else, the “bikie” law was bad law.

It could have been used against unions by a Liberal government, or against a professional association by a Labor government. Or against any group or organisation that a ‘rogue’ or ‘bad’ government or police force didn’t particularly like…maybe surfers, or a radical women’s group, or uni students, etc.  It is not unknown for NSW to have a bad government, or Queensland, or…

That’s why civil liberties groups fought the laws when they were proposed. But civil liberties groups didn’t win, we lost. The bad law became NSW law.

The people of NSW (and SA and the rest of Australia) were only saved from having bad law – a law that could have been used in a ‘Nazi’ or ‘Stalinist’ way in future – by the High Court of Australia.

The NSW Government still has all of the state’s criminal laws to use against bikies. Those laws are more than enough to deal with murders, drugs and public disorder…no matter who commits the murders, etc.

Regards, Bill Rowlings, CEO
Civil Liberties Australia

PS: You are obviously interested in civil liberties matters: please consider becoming a member of CLA:
https://www.cla.asn.au/Join/

RESPONSE from emailer: 
Sometimes it takes extra laws to rid our wonderful country of scum  like these.I know first  hand what they can do. I hope they don’t interfere in your life. You can feel proud next time an innocent person is hurt or killed knowing you helped.

REPLY by CLA:

We DID NOT help. I explained that we FAILED to make any change in the law.

The High Court ruling is what changed things.

Be as angry as you like…but pick the right target, which is NOT civil liberties people in this case. The people you should be angry with are the State Govt, who wrote bad law, which is what the High Court ruled. You could complain to the current (Liberal) Attorney-General in NSW, but it was actually the former Labor Attorney-General who got it wrong.

HIGH COURT RULING – NSW:

HIGH COURT RULING – SA:

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