Home > Oz Politics > Moral panic on bikies

Moral panic on bikies

October 20th, 2013

I won’t say much about Queensland’s new anti-bikie laws since they are so obviously indefensible, and will surely be struck down by the High Court. Unless AG Jarrod Bleijie was deliberately seeking this outcome, it seems that he is as wet behind the ears as his public appearances suggest and as his legal experience (limited to conveyancing it is said) would suggest. A couple of observations

First, although bikies are involved in crime, it appears to be limited to things like taking rake-offs from drug dealing (who would be at least as common if they were independent operators not obliged to pay off gang leaders) and to rackets around tattoo parlours. The public brawling we’ve seen recently, and the various piece of inter-gang violence seem to be controllable by ordinary law enforcement

Second, I don’t think freedom of association should be absolute. If it can be proved, in open court, that an organization is engaged in facilitating crime, there ought to be legal remedies (US RICO legislation is a possible model, though it has its problems). But the Queensland Legislation simply declares a large number of bikie clubs to be illegal, without any chance to have their day in court. Such laws could be applied to political parties, trade unions, companies or even individual groups of friends. Menzies tried this with the Communist Party (which at least had aspirations to be dangerous to the existing order of society, unlike, say the Bandidos) and was rightly rejected both by the High Court and the Australian people

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  1. October 20th, 2013 at 17:43 | #1

    A while ago I went to a benefit concert where Normie Rowe was performing. The audience were mainly find examples of middle-classdom like myself. Except right up the back was the Vietnam Vets motorcycle club. They were there for Normie, who said hello to them, as he always does.

    Not all motorcycle clubs are the same.

    But I suppose the problems with the bad clubs is that they don’t cooperate with the police, are a law unto themselves, and will intimidate witnesses to crimes.

  2. Alan
    October 20th, 2013 at 18:17 | #2

    At various time since federation Australia has indulged itself with moral panics about Chinese, Japanese, Asians generally, Pacific Islanders, Australians of German or Italian descent, immigrants, Communists, Catholics, homosexuals, asylum-seekers, bikies and (according to Bob Carr) people who wear their caps reversed.

    Australia is the only democracy which does not have a constitutional or legislative bill of rights. NSW prohibited discrimination on the grounds of homosexuality 1977, but the sodomy offence remained until 1984. In other words, between 1977 and 1984 the only organisation in NSW allowed to discriminate against LGBT people was the parliament itself. And who had granted the parliament that right? The parliament itself.

    If we had a bill of rights we would probably still have moral panics. What we would have less of is moral panick-mongers trying to ride them into office. A country whose last 4 prime ministers were eager purveyors of one or another kind of moral panic really needs to pause a moment and think.

    The joke about these laws is that they almost exactly copy the South Australian laws that have already been thrown out by the courts. They are not being enacted with any intention of ever putting them into force. They are window-dressing, pure and simple.

  3. Donald Oats
    October 20th, 2013 at 19:42 | #3

    Bikies, at least the ones that have caused much criminal havoc, are essentially organised crime units, with a very difficult culture to penetrate. In other words, getting police people onto the inside of a (criminally behaving) gang is very risky to the people trying it. The gangs that are a problem get involved in the production and the trafficking of serious drugs, as well as arms, protection rackets, and bribery of officials (such as police on their beat, or security staff, etc). They are a corrosive element. However, such gangs aren’t any different in kind to the various mafia, triads, etc, except for the fact that there are both legitimate and illegitimate bike clubs. Handing the power to decide which groups are “threats” and which aren’t, directly over to politicians, is bat-sh*t crazy. They can’t even distinguish between legitimate work travel expenses and illegitimate ones!

  4. October 20th, 2013 at 20:42 | #4

    Eternal moderation is limiting my right to internet freedom! So, I’ll try Fran’s trick:

    I don’t think freedom of association should be absolute

    That is an astonishing thing to say.

    You are saying that, even if no actual crime is being committed (such as “affray”, “riot”, “disturb the peace”, “public nuisance”, “trespass” or any other of the more than plentiful laws we already have criminalising certain behaviour), there should be no “right” to assembly.

    Seriously? Joh banned groups of 3 or more. Beattie banned groups of 5 or more. In China it’s 5.

    The ALP applauded these laws (all seven of them voted – unnecessarily – with Newman on Tuesday night for), I’d love to hear the ALP cheersquad justify that. Seriously, the ALP supports criminalising groups of people wholesale?

    Last night in Mt Isa a 51 year old man who yelled abuse at some cops from a pub was arrested and, solely because he had a “Rebels” belt buckle (no, I’m not joking), the new laws were applied to deny him bail.

    The ALP supports this.

    As I wrote many times before the 2012 Qld ALP wipeout: “Everything that happens under Newman is the ALP’s fault.” I still believe it holds true, but I honestly didn’t expect the rump remaining ALP ‘Opposition’ to vote with him on stuff like this.

  5. October 20th, 2013 at 20:51 | #5

    Maybe this will get through?:

    Alan: Curiously, one of the crimes which invoke the 15-25 year additional non-parole jail term is under Section 208 of the Queensland Criminal Code 1899 (you’ll have to look it up, eternal-mod won’t let me use the word!).

    Bleijie didn’t write these laws. We have a version of the US “A.L.E.C.” at work in Australia and I’m trying to find out who is behind it. In parliament Liz Cunningham suggested Santoro’s fingerprints were all over the Workers’ Comp laws, so…..?

  6. October 20th, 2013 at 20:53 | #6

    OK, never mind.

    Look into the laws, Hansard from last week, the Criminal Code 1899 s.208, and ask yourself “who actually wrote these laws?”

  7. Jim Rose
    October 20th, 2013 at 22:05 | #7

    As I recall, the mechanism by which these anti-bikie laws are unconstitutional is state courts are receptacles for federal jurisdiction and cannot be used in ways that detracts from that high status, institutional integrity and the independence needs to be a receptacle for federal jurisdiction.

    Part of that is not setting up process that strip state courts of having the final say on the determination of rights and to be able to do so independently. The executive simply cannot enlist the courts to implement its decisions

    This link suggests that the new laws retain the independent role of the QLD courts http://www.lawbuddy.com.au/knowledge-base/changes-in-south-australian-anti-bikie-laws/

  8. TerjeP
    October 21st, 2013 at 05:13 | #8

    Why not just legalise drugs and then let the drug dealers use the state run protection racket?

  9. Tony Lynch
    October 21st, 2013 at 07:37 | #9

    Let’s go for the truly criminal class. No freedom of association for groups of three or more for those in suits – excepting only marriages and funerals.

  10. Alan
    October 21st, 2013 at 07:51 | #10

    @Tony Lynch

    I think you need to include marriages where the guests are there at public expense whether suited or not.

  11. Alan
    October 21st, 2013 at 07:53 | #11

    @Jim Rose

    What is the relevance of a High Court decision on a 2010 Act to the constitutionality of a 2013 Act with a completely different legislative scheme?

  12. John Quiggin
    October 21st, 2013 at 08:14 | #12

    Certainly legalising drugs would be a good idea

  13. Ikonoclast
    October 21st, 2013 at 08:41 | #13


    Prof. J.Q. says “I don’t think freedom of association should be absolute”, and you Megan twist that into J.Q. saying “there should be no “right” to assembly”.

    The two statements are not equivalent. You seem to be missing the difference between absolute and non-absolute rights. As the BIHR (Bringing Rights to Life) UK site says;

    “Some human rights are absolute. They must never be limited or restricted in any way.

    However, the majority of rights are non-absolute and can be limited or restricted in certain circumstances where there is a need to take into account the rights of other individuals or wider society.”

    The right to assembly and association is indeed a right but not an absolute right. It is a qualified right. Allowing for differences between Australian and UK law (especially that we have no human rights bill), we can still fairly safely quote part of the next section and apply it to Australia;

    “Qualified rights can be restricted under more general circumstances – they can be balanced against the rights of others or the interests of the wider community. Examples of qualified rights include the right to respect for private and family life, the right to freedom of expression and the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

    Any interference with a qualified right must be:

    Lawful – be allowed within existing legislation;
    For a legitimate aim, e.g. to protect the rights of others or wider society;
    Necessary in a democratic society and;
    Proportionate – appropriate and not excessive in the circumstances.”

    Analysed in this fashion, it is clear Prof. J.Q’s formulation is just, reasonable and workable in a democratic society with common and legislated law.

  14. Ikonoclast
    October 21st, 2013 at 08:57 | #14

    Following on from my post above, I would say that any law interferring with a qualified right (in this case the right to assembly and association) should be;

    1. Lawful – be allowed within existing legislation;
    2. Non-discriminatory;
    3. For a legitimate aim, e.g. to protect the rights of others or wider society;
    4. Necessary in a democratic society and;
    5. Proportionate – appropriate and not excessive in the circumstances.

    I have added non-discriminatory to the BIHR list.

    The new bikie laws appear to be disproportionate and discriminatory at the very least. For those and other reasons they should be struck down. A real danger exists of this attack on qualified rights being extended. Probably, we do need an organized crime bill but this needs to carefully crafted in the light of experience around the world and using examples like the RICO act. Standard criminal law and a carefully crafted organized crime bill are what is needed at most not this current approach which could end up threatening the rights of many other groups.

    I suspect that Newman et. al. are attempting to distract the people from other shortcomings in their approach to law and governance. For example, proper enforcement of criminal law COMBINED with proper regard for all citizens’ rights is more costly. It costs more to be firm AND careful. Better funding of law enforcement along with more carefully considered legislation is what is required.

  15. October 21st, 2013 at 09:52 | #15


    I get the distinction. But to say that association should be limited in circumstances beyond our myriad existing criminal laws, just “because”, I find astonishing.

    We already have plenty of laws (I listed some categories above) which, if can be proven according to the rules of evidence in an open judicial process to have been broken, cover absolutely everything we’re supposed to be worried about with bikies.

    I’m amazed at the complacency about, and even support for, laws that apply mandatory 25 years jail without parole for, literally, “guilt by association”.

    I believe Newman, and the ALP for that matter, know exactly what they’re doing.

  16. October 21st, 2013 at 10:30 | #16

    I have no idea why that comment is in eternal moderation? No links, not lengthy, no naughty words? Is it because it’s a “reply” to Ike?

  17. Donald Oats
    October 21st, 2013 at 10:49 | #17

    The problem with laws that restrict freedom of association is that it is difficult to frame them in such a manner as to go to the heart of the matter, without unduly affecting people who are merely being annoying. Laws that work on limiting the number of people who may gather together are open to serious abuse by (a small minority) of police—it is human nature. If the right to bail is also denied, then the situation may exist where a targeted individual is chucked in the can, released, and chucked straight back in the can, repeatedly, as “punishment.” Any group of people that can be identified in some way are open to targeting, whether they are a true threat to society or not.

    As for legalising drugs, while I agree with the notion, I’d frame it as being a bad idea, just not as bad as the idea of criminalising drugs. Drugs f*ck some people up, no doubt about it, but at least in a controlled and regulated environment it would be easier to reduce the harm done, and to assist those who suffer from addiction rather than being occasional users. Criminalised drugs simply increases the rewards for the gangs, and the risks to both users and innocent citizens (who get caught in the cross-fire of violence). Front line police suffer too. Gaols are stuffed full of people whose crime is drug-related, petty theft or being a small-time dealer to support their own habit—what is the point of it?

  18. TerjeP
    October 21st, 2013 at 10:49 | #18


    Well then we agree on pretty much everything today. Your opening article regarding freedom of association was pretty much spot on. In NSW we have similar draconian ideas promoted by Labor and Liberal. It’s depressing how little dissent there is on these things.

  19. TerjeP
    October 21st, 2013 at 10:51 | #19

    ^ oops. That was a reply to JQ. Not myself. Obviously.

  20. Donald Oats
    October 21st, 2013 at 11:18 | #20

    Another concern I have with such laws is the creeping nature of them. They get brought in to fix an unfixable problem—bikie gangs involved in organised crime—and make some small headway, only to stall; so, the solution is to beef up the laws, which work for a short while, and so on.

    We have already seen what can happen in a different context, namely the case of Cornelia Rau, locked up in indefinite detention because she was unable/unwilling to identify herself. The fact that she was in the grip of a major bipolar manic episode (with possibility of schizophrenia) at the time should have been apparent to any psychiatrist who examined her, yet that seemed to make no difference. It was the lack of identification, and her German speech, that targeted her. She was merely annoying, while manic, that is. Her case poses the problem of how to handle people who don’t match the exemplar for the laws; furthermore, it seems that she was not examined by a psychiatrist until well after her transfer to Baxter detention facilities.

  21. Fran Barlow
    October 21st, 2013 at 11:56 | #21

    @John Quiggin

    Very much so. A legal regime would radically cut both the costs of enforcement and the corruption associated with regulating access to mood-altering substances. It would also allow people who were functional to persist in gainful employment.

    Those who really did have substance management issues could get treatment out of the funds raised by sales/savings in policing.

  22. Tony lynch
    October 21st, 2013 at 12:00 | #22


    True, Alan. Though I must say the idea of all our “suits” and “masters” having to find funerals to meet seems rather appropriate.

  23. Ikonoclast
    October 21st, 2013 at 12:04 | #23


    The reply link itself seems to get counted as a link. Thus a reply link and another link seems to take the moderation algorithm over its apparent allowance of one link. The moderation algorithm also seems to score (by simple addition seemingly) potential problems like excess links, offensive and derodatory words. When this score breaches an obviously very low limit, the algorithm tosses the comment to moderation.

    The moderation algorithm is clearly very simplistic and crude. If programmers and/or system analysts had presented algorithms this crude in a project I was also involved in, I would not have been backward in pointing out the crudeness and ineffectiveness of said algorithms and suggesting better ones. It’s very poor work by whoever did it.

  24. Tim Macknay
    October 21st, 2013 at 12:14 | #24

    Look into the laws, Hansard from last week, the Criminal Code 1899 s.208, and ask yourself “who actually wrote these laws?

    Megan, section 208 certainly looks archaic by contemporary standards, but it’s pretty typical of the compromises that were made to decriminalise consensual gay sex in the late 1980s (the particular Bill that inserted the current s208 was the work of the Goss Labor government in 1990). In order to overcome the resistance of socially conservative members of parliament, the strategy was adopted to decriminalise it in an unequal way (i.e. a higher age of consent), rather than to make the laws identical to those for straight sex. WA had similar provisions when decriminalisation occurred there a year earlier (1989). I don’t think any jurisdiction when for full equality in a single leap – the reforms have all been incremental.

    It’s worth remembering that those particular reforms occurred over 20 years ago, and public attitudes regarding homosexuality have advanced considerably during that time. The WA provisions were updated around a decade ago to remove the residual discrimination, but those amendments were controversial even then (at least within the Parliament). I don’t know why the Beattie/Bligh governments didn’t move to modernise the Queensland laws, but the fact that Anna Bligh was apparently unable to overcome the religious conservatives in her own party in order to decriminalise abortion is suggestive of the reason.

  25. Tim Macknay
    October 21st, 2013 at 12:14 | #25

    I messed up the blockquotes, evidently. Sorry.

  26. J-D
    October 21st, 2013 at 13:13 | #26

    When John Quiggin says that freedom of association should not be absolute, he is not saying that people should not have an unrestricted right to assemble even when no crime is being committed, he is saying that people should not have an unrestricted right to assemble in cases where crimes are being committed. So he’s saying the same thing you are, just with different phrasing and emphasis.

  27. Alan
    October 21st, 2013 at 13:24 | #27


    A lot of the qualified v unqualified rights argument actually comes from constitutional mythology in the US. The US bill of rights appears to consists exclusively of unqualified rights. Sadly for believers in the myth there are whole rafts of exceptions that have been developed by the courts, many of which go further than in modern bills of rights like Canada or South Africa where qualifications are stated openly in the text.

  28. Fran Barlow
    October 21st, 2013 at 13:57 | #28


    I was astonished to find that a country in the Horn of Africa that looks a lot like S0malia triggered the mod bucket. Then again, since it takes strings rather than words maybe it’s “S0ma” with an “o” that triggers it.

  29. Jim Rose
    October 21st, 2013 at 15:59 | #29

    @Alan the law was drafted in 2013 to account for the high court

  30. Alan
    October 21st, 2013 at 16:05 | #30

    @Jim Rose

    It’s an interesting claim but it’s not supported by the article you linked. That article cannot be relevant to the 2013 Act because it dates from July 2013, long before the legislation was even announced However, if one follows your link and reads the most recent articles, you find:

    Extreme Anti-Bikie Legislation Passed

    It is always best, when link-trolling, to check what the targeted link actually says.

  31. Russ
    October 21st, 2013 at 16:09 | #31

    Given that they satisfy many of the criteria, I think anyone proved to be a member of the Catholic church who commits a crime should get an extra 15 years. Also, since Tony Abbott is only going to oppose the ACT gay-marriage laws in order to “protect the constitution”, I expect we will see a High Court challenge to these Queensland laws.

  32. October 21st, 2013 at 16:12 | #32


    I didn’t have any other link or other “reply”. Just the one “reply” and a few pars of uncontroversial words.

    It’s weird.

  33. Ikonoclast
    October 21st, 2013 at 16:29 | #33

    Simplistic slogans like “legalise drugs” are about as useful as “stop the boats”. The category of “drugs” is a very broad and complicated category. Drugs (and poisons) have to be dealt with and legislated for on a case by case basis. Indeed, “the dose makes the poison”, as Paracelcus said. This is a principle of both toxicology and pharmacology. The categories of drug and poison overlap. All drugs are poisons at some dose and many poisons are efficacious drugs in the right doses in the right circumstances.

    It is also simplistic to speak of drugs (and poisons) being simply legal or illegal when there are many gradations of control over controlled substances. Alcohol and tobacco are called “legal” but there are many specific settings and situations where production, distribution, sale and consumption are illegal.

    So let us not have simplistic “legalise drugs” slogans. You need to propose workable specifics on a case by case basis and demonstrate net benefits to society. Currently proscribed or controlled substances are mostly proscribed or controlled for good reasons. Note, the word “mostly” does not mean “all”. It could be demonstrated that some changes are needed for soke substances. As I said, put a case with supporting data and workable specifics for each substance where the current level of control might be counter-productive for society.

  34. October 21st, 2013 at 16:32 | #34

    @Tim Macknay

    The point I was making was lost thanks to eternal mod and my attempts to avoid words that would trigger it.

    I was referring to s208 because, curiously, it is one of the “declared offences” under Schedule 1 to the legislation under discussion. I wasn’t aware that bikies were flaunting s208 to such an intolerable extent that they should get an extra 25 years just for who they associate with.

  35. Tim Macknay
    October 21st, 2013 at 17:42 | #35

    I just read the “Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment Bill” – ye gads, what draconian nonsense, and such Orwellian language – ‘vicious lawless associate’ WTF?

    It looks to me that s.208 was included because that section has been treated the same way as other provisions dealing with sexual offences involving minors and mentally impaired people (never mind the difference in the age of consent and the anachronism of singling out the particular physical act for an offence of its own).

    It’s difficult to see how the legislation will actually work for many of the scheduled offences – although it (disgracefully) puts the onus of proof on the accused to show that the relevant association was not formed for the purpose of the particular offence, I wouldn’t have thought it would be too difficult to prove, on the balance of probabilities, that a motorcycle club was not formed for the purposes of committing offences against s.208!

  36. October 21st, 2013 at 18:09 | #36

    @Tim Macknay

    Except that the applicable standard of proof is “beyond reasonable doubt” and, as you note, the reversal of onus of proof is not a good thing.

    That’s part of the reason I’m suprised at the general complacency about this.

  37. Tim Macknay
    October 21st, 2013 at 18:23 | #37


    Except that the applicable standard of proof is “beyond reasonable doubt

    In criminal cases, where the accused is required to carry a legal burden of proof, the standard is the balance of probabilities (the prosecution is still required to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt).

  38. October 21st, 2013 at 18:36 | #38

    @Tim Macknay

    I stand corrected.

    But you will note that what the alledged “Lawless Violent Associate” has to prove under s5(2) is unrelated to the actual offence. They have to prove is a lack of involvement in ANY “declared offence”. So that still won’t get our hypothetical s208 offender off the hook. He has to prove the negative for ALL the listed offences to get that far.

  39. Fran Barlow
    October 21st, 2013 at 19:03 | #39

    @Tim Macknay

    I just read the “Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment Bill” – ye gads, what draconian nonsense, and such Orwellian language – ‘vicious lawless associate’ WTF?

    The acronym is “VLAD” — it’s vampires I tells ya!

  40. Fran Barlow
    October 21st, 2013 at 19:12 | #40


    Simplistic slogans like “legalise drugs” are about as useful as “stop the boats”. The category of “drugs” is a very broad and complicated category.

    Well yes, but as this post isn’t really about drug laws, ‘legalise drugs’ is probably a reasonable approximation.

    Personally I favour a controlled supply regime for all mood-altering drugs with the controls reflective of the hazard associated with abuse, especially those that are physically addictive. So the most significant controls would be for heroin and speed and its relatives, and the lightest for ecstasy and marijuana.

    I would roll out alternative modes of delivery — patches and perhaps nasal sprays as preferred to IV …

  41. Tim Macknay
    October 21st, 2013 at 19:37 | #41

    @Tim Macknay
    You’re right. I missed that. Extraordinarily draconian.

  42. Tim Macknay
    October 21st, 2013 at 19:40 | #42

    Sorry Megan – that reply was to you, not myself. %#[email protected]

  43. Tim Macknay
    October 21st, 2013 at 19:42 | #43

    @Fran Barlow
    Reminds me of From Dusk till Dawn

  44. J-D
    October 22nd, 2013 at 08:02 | #44

    Although there are good reasons for controls on the sale and use of drugs, none of the drugs currently proscribed were proscribed for good reasons. There is no drug for which there is a net benefit from criminalising all uses of that drug.

  45. Ikonoclast
    October 22nd, 2013 at 08:25 | #45


    “…none of the drugs currently proscribed were proscribed for good reasons.”

    That sounds like a sweeping generalization to me.

  46. Fran Barlow
    October 22nd, 2013 at 08:31 | #46


    There is no drug for which there is a net benefit from criminalising all uses of that drug.

    Plainly, if someone administers a stupefying agent to another person without/against their consent then that’s criminal. That’s a form of assault, and perhaps even in the same category as GBH. Equally, being in control of dangerous machinery, or hazmat when under the influence is criminal. This is not about the drug itself but about the action of a person using the drug.

    Moreover, there are some drugs that are so immediately and palpably harmful that one could reasonably infer that no person in a position to make an informed choice would use them. Some versions of recreational drugs are prepared and distributed in ways that would fall very far short of suitable product standards. Distribution in such situations is contrary to the public interest in part because one can’t be confident that people know what they are self-administering.

    Considerations of this kind are precisely why there should be a well conceived and robust legal regime within which the desire of some people to use drugs to alter mood can be managed with a minimum of risk to those so inclined and secondary cost to everyone else.

  47. Alan
    October 22nd, 2013 at 08:34 | #47

    The reality is that the current raft of drug prescriptions were themselves the result of moral panics. Just about everybody,from Victoria down, was bombed to the eyeballs for most of the second half of the nineteenth century. They managed to build one or two bridges and railways, sewer the great cities of Europe and North America. and write lots about the theory of psychoanalyses. Australia had among the highest rates of opiate consumption in the nineteenth century and laws were carefully directed against evil Chinese smoking the stuff, not good Europeans drinking laudanum by the gallon.

    The opium ban had more to do with a moral panic raised against the Chinese and the cannabis ban was all about Mexicans in the US Southwest. In time the US tended to export temperance and prohibition laws by way of international agreements. Australia, for example, did not ban cannabis until 1926 when we ratified an international convention on the subject.

    You cannot condemn the work of moral entrepreneurs in 2013 while endorsing that of moral entrepreneurs in the 1920s.

    I have to add I am quite nervous about the various halfway house proposals that involve controlled delivery. Many of them seem to me to end up with social workers telling marginalised people what to do, and then calling the cops when the marginalised people don’t do as the social workers tell them.

  48. October 22nd, 2013 at 14:17 | #48

    People who refer to the bikie clubs as “outlaw bikie gangs” seem to have little grasp of what constitutes outlawry. The Hell’s Angels are an Australian public company (ABN 17001312312), as are the Bandidos (ABN 97132958957). The Gypsy Jokers (ABN 43452287564) and the Finks (ABN 84799105546) are incorporated associations. Describing them as outlaws only feeds the romantic fantasies of overweight losers playing dressups.

    And in Queensland that doesn’t just apply to the police, either.

    Unless the minutes of the last Hell’s Angels Board meeting say something like “Increase heroin sales through tattoo parlours; Action – Big Merv” then the clubs, as such, aren’t committing crimes.

    If all the HA members decide to move over and become (say) members of the Northern Suburbs Croquet Club, does their outlawry move with them to the new association?

    Though there is apparently some difficulty registering one’s resignation from a VLAD with the authorities should one wish to do so.

  49. October 22nd, 2013 at 20:54 | #49

    All bikies are equal, some bikies are more equal than others.

    Those of a military bent are just fine.

    Qld Police:

    Patriots Motorcycle Club – 2013 Coffs Harbour Run

    October 22, 2013 at 11:44 am

    Police would like to advise the community that the Patriots Motorcycle Club – South Queensland Chapter will commence a run this morning.

    Members from this social motorcycle club will be travelling from areas such as Brisbane, Sunshine Coast and Toowoomba down to Coffs Harbour in New South Wales.

    Police would like to further advise that while they are aware of the run, the public should not be concerned about these activities as the Patriots is not a criminal motorcycle gang.

    Police will continue to use laws effectively to ensure the safety of the community and dismantle criminal organisations within Queensland, including enforcement action against criminal motorcycle gangs.

    I’m still amazed at the complacency. And, quite frankly, the irony.

    For example, the Gold Coast ‘Finks’ HQ hasn’t been ‘declared’ as a VLAD location. I won’t go into scuttle-butt here about connections between Gold Coast police and the gang that supposedly started this whole moral panic….maybe it was just an oversight.

  50. Tim Macknay
    October 23rd, 2013 at 12:27 | #50

    According to Overland, Campbell’s new anti-bikie regime includes pink prison uniforms. Combine that with the s.208 stuff and we’re virtually in pink triangle territory.

  51. J-D
    October 23rd, 2013 at 12:30 | #51

    Yes, it was a sweeping generalisation. Some sweeping generalisations are true.

  52. J-D
    October 23rd, 2013 at 12:31 | #52

    @Fran Barlow
    The case you make suggests that for some drugs there may be a net benefit from criminalising some uses of that drug. It is still true that there is no drug for which there is a net benefit from criminalising all uses of that drug.

  53. Alan
    October 23rd, 2013 at 14:46 | #53


    If we were to make laws based on the principle of net benefit from all uses then who should ‘scape whipping? Iko gives quite a good test for laws that derogate from human rights above. I’d ask which of the drug prohibitions meet the test he sets out?

    I don’t think this is a drug thread, but it is a human rights thread. Previous bikie laws from fallen to the very limited human rights now guaranteed by our constitution, although the high court needed to get there by a slightly strange route. They would be an open and shut case under a modern charter of rights.

  54. Fran Barlow
    October 23rd, 2013 at 15:08 | #54


    Oh I agree. Moreover, if a legal regime were available for mood-altering drugs I daresay most would move away from those to which most concern attaches.

  55. Jim Rose
    October 23rd, 2013 at 17:45 | #55

    What do you do about drug legalisation for under 18s. Same laws as now?

  56. Alan
    October 23rd, 2013 at 18:00 | #56

    As far as I am aware no-one on this thread has said anything about drug legalisation for under 18s, but I could be wrong. There’s certainly a dangerous leftie here somewhere who is all in favour of cocaine in the kindergarten.

  57. J-D
    October 23rd, 2013 at 19:41 | #57

    Ikonoclast’s test was net benefit.

    The way you refer to ‘net benefit from all uses’ makes me think that you are confusing the issue of the effect of the drugs with the issue of the effect of the laws. Changing the laws (one way or the other) doesn’t change the effects of the drugs themselves (one way or the other).

    The idea that it’s impossible to make a law that is beneficial (on balance) is ridiculous, but if that were a real problem the solution would be not to make laws.

    There is a net benefit, just to give one example, from the law that mandates the wearing of seatbelts.

    There may be practical difficulties in estimating reliably whether there is a net benefit from a law, but then there may be practical difficulties in estimating the effects of any choice we have to make, and the solution to that problem is to do the best we can.

  58. Alan
    October 23rd, 2013 at 20:01 | #58

    Net benefit from all uses is by no means the same as net benefit and the human rights issue cannot be excluded on crude utilitarian grounds. Rather human rights has to be part of the basic scheme of any law.

    The Ikon test is:

    Analysed in this fashion, it is clear Prof. J.Q’s formulation is just, reasonable and workable in a democratic society with common and legislated law.

    That is a fairly standard test. Canada’s charter of rights says:

    Rights and freedoms in Canada
    1. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.

    South Africa says:

    Section 36 Limitation of rights

    (1) The rights in the Bill of Rights may be limited only in terms of law of general application to the extent that the limitation is reasonable and justifiable in an open and democratic society based on human dignity, equality and freedom, taking into account all relevant factors, including –
    (a) the nature of the right;
    (b) the importance of the purpose of the limitation;
    (c) the nature and extent of the limitation;
    (d) the relation between the limitation and its purpose; and
    (e) less restrictive means to achieve the purpose.
    (2) Except as provided in subsection (1) or in any other provision of the Constitution, no law may limit any right entrenched in the Bill of Rights.

    The scheme of the Queensland act tries to cure the defects of previous laws. In those laws there was a declaration by the police and then all that remained for the courts was to enforce the police declaration. The high court struck them down as vesting judicial power in an executive agency. It’s hard to see why a parliamentary declaration is going to be held to be any less an exercise of judicial power by a non-judicial body, especially in light of the Communist Party case which used an identical scheme, parliamentary declaration, and was truck down for that reason.

    If a charter of rights served only to spare us the ludicrous rhetoric offered by moral entrepreneurs it would be a very good thing.

  59. J-D
    October 23rd, 2013 at 20:35 | #59

    Ikonoclast wrote (and I quote the exact words): ‘You need to propose workable specifics on a case by case basis and demonstrate net benefits to society.’

    Those are Ikonoclast’s words, not mine.

    Ikonoclast made that observation not in connection with the original subject of Queensland’s anti-gang law but in connection with the subject of drug legalisation.

    I agree with Ikonoclast that the way to justify making laws about drugs is to demonstrate net benefits to society from making those laws.

    If you think you can demonstrate net benefits to society from a law that criminalises all uses of a drug (whichever drug it may be), please go ahead and do so. If you think the concept of human rights is useful in making that demonstration, please show how.

    But if you don’t want to discuss drug laws and instead want to analyse the Queensland law in the light of human rights considerations, please don’t pretend it’s a response to what I have been contending, because it obviously isn’t.

  60. Alan
    October 23rd, 2013 at 21:25 | #60

    I think human rights is a fundamental consideration in drug legislation. Laws that fall on the poor and the marginalised in a discriminatory manner have a much higher test to meet than laws that do not. I think I said earlier that I regarded the drug laws, exactly like the bikie laws, as the product of moral panic.

  61. J-D
    October 24th, 2013 at 10:40 | #61

    If you think this is supposed to contradict my position, I don’t see how. (As far as results go, and as far as I can tell, it seems that we’re both against existing drug prohibition laws.)

    I have to admit I’m not clear on which human rights it is that you think drug laws infringe, but if they do infringe on human rights, that should be taken into account as one of the factors against them in weighing whether there are net benefits to society, because infringement of human rights is a harm to society.

  62. Alan
    October 24th, 2013 at 11:35 | #62

    I don’t have numbers from Australia. In the US the drug laws fall disproportionately on African-Americans, Native Americans and Hispanics. So much so they have bend called the New Jim Crow. Naturally that is a fairly controversial analysis, and certainly truer in the US (where the level of felony disfranchisement among African-Americans is a considerably greater number than the margin of victory in presidential elections) than in Australia. Nevertheless it is simply indisputable that, although drug use is rethought it be relatively evenly distributed among different ethnic groups, the number of prosecutions and subsequent incarcerations among American-Americans in particular, Native Americans and Hispanics to a lesser extent, far exceeds the level of prosecution and incarceration among whites for the same offences. The US even manages to discriminate among particular drugs, imposing harsher penalties for ‘African-American’ crack cocaine compared with ‘white’ regular cocaine.

    One estimate is that

    Felony convictions restrict 13 percent of the country’s black male population from voting, prompting critics to portray felon disenfranchisement as an heir to the voter-suppression tactics of the Jim Crow era.

    Australia doesn’t impose life disfranchisement but you will recall the Howard government’s enthusiasm for prisoner disfranchisement. Which population groups in Australia are severely over-represented among prisoners? And what kinds of offences put them there?

  63. Alan
    October 24th, 2013 at 11:41 | #63


    My reply is waiting moderation, but yes I think we are in agreement.

  64. October 24th, 2013 at 12:09 | #64

    There is a story on ‘Brisbane Times’ under this headline:

    East Brisbane office housed Hells Angels: police

    The gist is that 2 Vicious, Lawless etc.. etc.. bikies and an ex-Broncos footballer committed major serious crimes. Bearing in mind my low opinion of Murdoch’s vile hate machine and its central role in this moral panic and the resulting laws criminalising just about everyone as an “associate”, and also remembering that Murdoch owned the Broncos at the time – I wonder if News Ltd will be hoist on their own petard:

    Bruno and Nuno Da Silva – Portuguese-born twins who have featured on the professional poker circuit – won a business achiever’s award from News Corp’s City South News in 2008.

    Under the headline “Brothers find keys to riches” the pair was praised for growing their business from a one-man operation to a company employing six locksmiths in five years.

    Looks an awful lot like “promoting” the enterprise! We really need a sweeping police operation against this vicious lawless propaganda organisation.

  65. John Quiggin
    October 24th, 2013 at 13:04 | #65

    I tried to get these guys to cut a key for me a few years ago. They were hopeless. I ended up have a shouting match with one of them, and demanding my money back. Got most of it, too. I was kind of worried when I found out not long after that they were HA.

  66. October 24th, 2013 at 13:12 | #66

    @John Quiggin

    Good to see that News Ltd’s judgement on “Business Achievers” is as sound as their judgment on everything else.

  67. Tim Macknay
    October 24th, 2013 at 13:35 | #67

    The mention of the broncos above and the problems various football clubs have had with rape and sexual assault does raise the question whether football clubs (rugby league clubs in particular) would/should be captured under the “vicious lawless etc” association laws, according to those laws’ stated purposes.

  68. October 24th, 2013 at 18:50 | #68

    @Tim Macknay

    We’ll get some idea, hopfeully tomorrow, when the Chief Magistrate gives his decision on whether these guys are ineligible for bail under VLAD.

    I imagine either side will appeal and then it’s probably off to the High Court after that.

    I’m guessing that the prosecution said: ‘You can’t grant bail because VLAD applies’. And the Defence said: ‘They need to prove that VLAD applies, and its unconstitutional anyway’.

    Re: NRL: I can see how it could be argued that the “purpose” of the group is not confined to their stated purpose but is an objective test. In that case I can think of a few ways they could be caught up by VLAD. My comment about News Ltd was only half-joking!

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