Queensland Premier Campbell Newman recently hinted that his government’s controversial bikie laws were likely to be repealed after a mandatory review in three years. “Ultimately, in less than three years' time, these laws can disappear from the statute books in Queensland, because that's the intention of the government,” he said.
Newman claimed he never wanted the laws, saying: “I didn't particularly want to see these laws implemented, but the sooner we can get rid of them the better.”
It seems Newman is on the defensive, trying to deflect the criticism aimed at him and his government: “People are saying these laws are too much. I'm saying they're there for a reason.”
Newman justified the laws by citing events involving members of bikie gangs, including a woman being shot at Robina shopping centre, and brawls in the Gold Coast.
The perpetrators of those incidents deserve to face justice for their crimes. It’s a different matter when people can be arrested merely for “associating” in public. Alleged bikies can be arrested if more than three are together in a public place, regardless of whether they are committing any other crime at the time.
The Yandina 5 is the most famous case so far of these laws being taken to the extreme. The five men, allegedly members of the Rebel bikie gang, were arrested last month, merely for being seen together in a pub. Three of them are brothers. Another, Joshua Carew, was delivering a pizza to the pub and was arrested because he was seen on CCTV talking to the others, one of whom is his boss.
Carew says he is not a member of the Rebels. He was not granted bail until January 14, when the Supreme Court overturned the initial decision not to release him.
He told the Guardian about his experience in solitary confinement: “It’s pretty hard, you spend a lot of time talking to yourself. I ended up taking medication because I couldn’t sleep at night, you just talk to yourself that much, you just go round in circles and start going bananas in your own head.”
An unknown number of recreational bikers have also been harassed by police who have the power to stop and search suspected gang members. Jamie Edward Evans, a member of recreational biker club the Misfits, was stopped by police who interrogated him about his clothes, associations, friends and work at a Brisbane service station. Police then carried out breath and drug tests.
Evans filmed part of the hour-long incident, involving about half a dozen cops, and put it on YouTube, where it has been viewed more than 500,000 times. Police Commissioner Ian Stewart apologised on January 13: "Some good people in the community, including recreational motorcyclists, are going to be inconvenienced and I'm sorry if that's happened to Jamie." Evans says he has been pulled over 21 times since the laws came into effect.
It is little wonder that the laws have stirred outrage among Queenslanders. Newman seemed perplexed on Fairfax radio, saying: “But it's interesting that suddenly [they're] the Yandina 5, like they're human rights victims.”
“Freedom Day” events for January 26 are planned around Australia. Concern has even spread overseas, with a protest planning to march on the Australian embassy in London, and support coming from the US. Seemingly unaware of his attacks on basic democratic rights, Newman said: “It beggars belief that anybody in London could possibly understand the facts about what this legislation really involves or have any legitimate motivation to protest.”
Newman says his mission is “to get rid of these gangs out of this state and the message is ‘Get out of town or get out of the gangs and get an honest job’.”
But Newman’s laws will have the opposite effect, putting some bikies out of their “honest jobs”. The Electrical Trades Union (ETU) is concerned about the possible loss of its members’ jobs, due to amendments to the bikie laws.
From July, anyone who has declared their membership to a proscribed club, through words or action, sought to have been a member, or attended one or more meetings or gatherings of people who are members or associates, is in danger of losing their electrical licence or not having it renewed
Without a licence, electricians cannot work. ETU state secretary Peter Simpson said: “I have spoken to some ETU members, who are members of the Rebels, members of the Black Uhlans and the Hells Angels and have been for many years.
"And in most cases the people I have spoken to, their families are members as well so they won't be able to renew their electrical licences. So we have electricians with no criminal record having their honest livelihoods taken off them.
“What that is in turn doing is driving them into crime.
“We are not trying to stick up for criminals. If people are breaching the law, if they are dealing drugs, using intimidation tactics, or harassing them or bullying, good on them, they should go to jail.
"But the existing laws provided for that. There is no need for this outrageous legislation, especially these amendments about taking people's livelihoods off them. It is just disgraceful.”