Queensland: free association should not be a crime

The Queensland Government has introduced a bill that creates mandatory 15-year sentences for ‘vicious, lawless associates’ who do not cooperate with police inquiries when charged with serious crimes[1]. Pirate Party Australia opposes this serious threat to freedom of association and the right to remain silent.

“The law must be applied equally to everyone,” commented Melanie Thomas, Deputy President of Pirate Party Australia. “The targeting of bikies who fail to cooperate with police creates a sector of society who are subjected to harsher laws than everyone else. This unjust move is tyrannical and an affront to a free and democratic society.”

The notion of treating motorcycle club members more harshly than other citizens under the law is seated in the same flawed paradigm as that of the racial and gender discrimination which has become a historical embarrassment to contemporary Australia and elsewhere like the United States and South Africa.

The legislation reportedly also creates a prison solely for outlaw motorcycle gang members, a proposition that Pirate Party Australia considers absurd. The conditions imposed are grossly injust, with inmates segregated in solitary confinement for up to 23 hours a day[2]. This is far beyond the sentence for the actual crime they are charged with, and is the sort of draconian move expected from dictatorships, not democratically elected governments.

“Pushed through parliament at the eleventh hour as a knee-jerk reaction to a perceived crime problem, there has been no community consultation, and no sunset clause added, meaning this overreaching law will have potential ramifications for everyone far into the future. This law is an infringement on the civil liberties of all Queenslanders and will once again push Queensland back into the police state it was in the 1980s,” Thomas continued.

The NSW experience with ‘anti-bikie’ laws indicates that despite Governments proclaiming such laws are intended to target specific individuals and groups, there is significant leeway for them to be applied to a range of matters. Notwithstanding the fact that no such group of people should be targeted anyway, the public should take no consolation in lawmakers’ rhetoric about targeting only organised crime with this law[3][4].

“The Queensland Government has already indicated that this law is deliberately broad, raising additional concerns that the scope may become very wide. It is critical to take into consideration how a law may be used contrary to its intention and potentially abused in the future. We must be cautious not to return to Bjelke-Petersen style authoritarianism where laws are used and abused to dismantle democratic principles and freedom of association,” Thomas concluded.

Pirate Party Australia is in the process of forming state and territory branches to campaign locally against infringements on civil liberties.

[1] http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/vicious-lawless-association-disestablishment-bill-20131015-2vjzd.html
[2] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-10-15/qld-government-plans-bikie-only-prison-under-new-laws/5022524
[3] http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/threat-to-bikie-consorting-case/story-e6frg6nf-1226449611146
[4] http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/give-anyone-too-much-power-and-theyre-going-to-abuse-it-states-first-consorting-verdict-overturned-20120814-246a6.html