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Top priority is to keep streets safe from bikie thugs



WHAT price public safety?


That is a question Queenslanders today will rightly ask after learning on the weekend that frontline officers have been removed from Taskforce Maxima while it continues the fight against bikie-related crime, at the same time as reports emerge of patched up bikies reappearing on our streets.

Few policies have polarised Queenslanders as much as the anti-bikie VLAD legislation. Law and order featured significantly in the 2012 state election campaign, and Campbell Newman’s LNP opposition pledged action. That’s why no one should have been surprised or disgruntled when the Newman government acted swiftly to eliminate this scourge after the disgraceful 2013 Broadbeach brawl.

CUTS: Taskforce downsizing causes alarm as bikies back in club colours

But innovation in the face of intractable social problems is almost always contentious. That is why the proof of any new policy must be in its results. And no fair-minded person can honestly say the VLAD laws haven’t transformed the streets of the Gold Coast and other areas of Queensland for the better.

Within weeks of the law’s passing, outlaw motorcycle gangs which had claimed to own the streets had disbanded, patched jackets had been discarded, and clubhouses closed with office bearers, faced with up to 25 years jail, running into hiding with their tails between their legs.

The positive effect of the laws, in achieving what no other Australian government had done, has made Queensland the envy of other states. NSW has recently copied the VLAD model and is seeing a similar reduction in bikie-related crime.

Safer Gold Coast and Brisbane streets have also undoubtedly lifted public support for the laws. Where, in February 2014, just 48 per cent of Queenslanders endorsed the VLAD provisions, by November 60 per cent believed the anti-bikie laws were good for Queensland and should stay.

The High Court’s validation of the laws in November 2014 also went a long way to drown out the scaremongering of civil libertarian types more intent on scoring political points than in protecting innocent people.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk promised before the 2015 election that a Labor government would review the VLAD laws. But that does not mean she has a blank cheque to dump laws which have proved effective.

The Premier’s response to the review, which is being led by retired Supreme Court judge Alan Wilson and is due for completion soon, will be a critical point for the Government.

Ms Palaszczuk must show her administration has the political will to ensure the scourge of outlaw bikie crime does not return.

The Premier has already made a misstep on the issue when seizing on the findings of her Government’s Organised Crime Inquiry last year, which controversially linked the emergence of other forms of serious crime, such as child exploitation, to the resources ploughed into the war on bikies.

The inquiry’s conclusions were questionable – police Deputy Commissioner Ross Barnett rebutted any suggestion officers had dropped the ball on pedophilia – and it was a mistake for the Government to present the fight against different types of serious crime as an “either or” choice.


The Government risks being very much out of step with public opinion if the bikie laws are rolled back and the intimidating presence of outlaw gangs once again becomes a menace on the streets of Queensland.

The demonstrated results of the bikie crackdown – including the arrest of 2573 offenders and the laying of 8582 charges – must not lead to any complacency.

Queensland must not return to a time when bikies were so brazen they thought nothing of staging a brutal riot in front of horrified families or having a shootout in a suburban shopping centre which caught an innocent woman in the crossfire.

Ms Palaszczuk knows she needs to get the policy mix right in 2016. Keeping our streets safe from criminal thugs must remain at the top of her priorities.