In October last year, the Queensland LNP government introduced massive changes to the State’s law, including three new acts and extensive changes to the criminal code and licensing laws.
The purpose of the legislative changes was claimed to allow the government to pursue a war on bikie clubs, even employing ex-army officers to plan and direct strategies used by the Police.
$1,300,000 has now been spent on PR firms and advertising to promote the new laws.
In January I wrote an article on these changes and their impacts called ‘Taken for a Ride’ for Tasmanian Times.
A growing list of victims
Since writing the article, the Queensland Police have been vigilant, sifting through CCTV footage and arrested a Brisbane librarian and mother of three, Sally Kuether, for being in a pub with her partner and a friend, both members of the Life and Death motorcycle club.
Though not a member of the club, Sally was charged as an associate under strict laws that do not permit three or more members of 26 listed clubs to be in public together.
Any club or organisation could be added to that list at any time at the whim of politicians.
Upon release from jail on bail, Sally asked “I can’t see what I’ve done wrong, all I did was have a beer with my partner and my mate,’’ she said. “How is that wrong? I’ve never committed any crime in my life ever before, I’m an upstanding citizen, what can I say?’’ (See this 9NEWS story on Sally).
As an associate of a listed organisation under the VLAD regime, if convicted in court, Sally runs the gauntlet of at least 6 months in jail in solitary confinement for 22 hours a day.
Rather than the State prove that Sally is guilty, Sally will be required to prove that she is innocent, reversing the onus of proof in a whole new form of justice DownUnder.
Solitary confinement is an acknowledged form of torture, which can drive a prisoner mad and result in the need for medication, turning them into a zombie, so they can cope.
There are prisoners confined in these conditions in Queensland now.
Five members of Victorian bikie clubs were caught having an icecream on the Gold Coast and that got them arrested, even though they were from out of state.
They were members of two of the listed organisations.
Cameron O’Neill, the president of the New South Wales branch of the Bandidos motorcycle club, is refusing to return to Queensland to face trial and understandably so, as he faces an automatic 25 years in prison in solitary confinement, on top of any other sentence.
Cameron’s crime was to be on a licensed premises with two business cards for the club in his wallet.
Like an old-time outlaw, Cameron may now go into hiding.
The need for a Bill of Rights
Justice is becoming a joke in Queensland and is making the State an international laughing stock.
Many who had planned to visit the Sunshine State, now see dark clouds and are keeping away.
In my previous article I wondered if a Bill of Rights for Australia might offer a way out of this legal, political and policing madness.
Previous attempts to introduce such a bill in Australia have fallen flat, including under Bob Hawke and a few years ago there was an attempt to do this in Queensland, which came to naught.
Australia is the only developed country without a Bill of Rights, which leaves us behind New Zealand, who introduced their own in 1990.
When I read through the New Zealand bill, it appears to include everything that we could need to maintain a just and fair society this side of the Tasman Sea.
Under the New Zealand bill, legislation like that now in Queensland could not survive and if passed in the house, would be revoked as breaching the Bill of Rights.
Provisions include “the right to freedom of association” and “freedom of expression.”
It includes “the right not to be subjected to torture or to cruel, degrading, or disproportionately severe treatment or punishment” which would rule out the use of solitary confinement and forcing prisoners to wear pink clothing.
The New Zealand Bill of Rights is overseen by their Attorney-General, but in Australia this could be the role of the High Court, as recommended in ‘Imagining Australia’ (page 59) where we read, “The High Court would be given the role of determining the substantive meaning of a bill of rights.”
An Australian Bill of Rights can be a hot topic of debate for all, consider our national values, such as a fair go, that there be fairness in law-making and law enforcement.
No citizen should be treated differently from another because of their family connections, their friends and their associations.
Hundreds of Queenslanders now live in fear of losing their right to work, when harsh licensing measures are introduced in July.
Many have already lost their home and family, including Ben Wilson, who was arrested in January for setting up a business in a former Rebels bikie clubhouse.
Though not a member, he was deemed to be an associate and now sits in jail believing that he will be found guilty under the harsh Queensland laws.
Ben is in the open prison at present and is not applying for bail, so that he can minimise any time in solitary confinement.
Is that justice?
The diggers at Eureka once stood up and said “NO!” to harsh colonial laws.
Now we have a warren of rather dangerous politicians playing a very sinister game with our democracy in Queensland.
If the LNP in Queensland get away with their banana laws in the north, other States may follow suit, simply to keep their laws in line and we could end up with a giant pineapple on Parliament House in Canberra.
If we want a fair and free Australia, then we should follow New Zealand and launch our own Bill of Rights, while we still can.
It is time for the people to demand justice and liberty.
* Crooke & Fitzgerald, ‘Abuse of power does nothing to protect us’ The Drum, ABC, 3 February 2014;
* Stephen Keim, ‘The Newman Government: The path to hell is paved with simplistic policies’, Independent Australia, 5 February 2014; and
* ‘Queensland Bar Association demands Campbell Newman to withdraw ‘hired guns’ remarks against lawyers’ ABC News Online, 7 February 2014.