Will tough new laws do anything to condemn outlaw motorcycle clubs?

Will tough new laws do anything to condemn outlaw motorcycle clubs?

WA has some new laws aimed at organised crime.  These laws align us with the new tough approach that is being spearheaded by Queensland and supported by the Federal Government.

Australia has a long tradition of this kind of political behaviour that started way back in the nineteenth century when the bikie equivalents of that period were called bushrangers and, like their modern counterparts, had a very bad habit of running amuck.

Now the cycle (no pun intended) starts over and another set of even tougher laws are being talked up. 

The bushranger's behaviour was so bad it caused the pollies of the day to bring in some of the worst laws this country has ever seen.

The effect was that the public discussion at that time focussed on how these new laws would curtail the behaviour of the evil folks. History tells us that these laws did not match either the expectations of the community or the political hype of the government, to the extent that one of the major targets of the laws, Frank Gardiner, retired to the USA as a free man

Another, and even worse set of laws were introduced in Victoria when Ned Kelly was around. These laws reversed the onus of proof, gave the power to shoot on sight to any citizen and made it an offence to even know a bushranger.

These terrible laws passed through the parliament with almost no discussion, debate or dissent and it is generally accepted that these laws did not work as intended with Kelly remaining free for almost another two years after they came into effect.

Many historians have written that these laws may have even played a part in increasing public support for the outlaw gangs of that time.

Over a century later, the 1984 NSW Milperra massacre in NSW caused another burst of political outrage and more laws aimed at destroying those violent criminal gangs.  They didn't.

Continuing the theme, in my time in Parliament I sat through three sets of debates where the government of the day brought forward tough legislation to deal with bikies.

Each of these political events was triggered by public displays of violence from organised criminals and followed by more political hype on how these particular laws would fix the problem.

When checking across all the states, my last count showed that there are seventeen different laws dedicated to this particular issue. There are also a number of specific Federal Acts with similar objectives.

As we are in yet another period of bikie chaos it is self evident that none of those laws have worked as designed either.  Now the cycle (no pun intended) starts over and another set of even tougher laws are being talked up.

But as the laws get tougher and tougher and now begin to impact on all of us, the problem continues to grow.  So what is going on?

The answers are complex and varied, but right around the world international criminal gangs are cunning, resilient, wealthy and ruthless, and they come in many forms, including outlaw motorcycle gangs.

Experience tells us that the most effective way of dealing with them is not through political posturing but by dedicated Police teams working long and hard at following the money trail.  This is an extremely difficult task.

The presumption of innocence and the rule of law are fundamental to our society, but when the Police have to deal with criminal organisations that have absolutely no intention of obeying our laws, it must be infuriating.