Academic defends Australian bikies as 'citizen activists'
Australia's feared outlaw motorcycle gangs have found support from an unlikely quarter.
Writing in the International Journal of Motorcycle Studies, an Australian academic has defended bikies as the country's emerging "citizen activists".
Binoy Kampmark, an academic from Melbourne's RMIT University and former candidate for the WikiLeaks Party, said Australia's treatment of bikies "revealed the extent to which the state has intruded into general liberties".
"Poorly drafted laws have meant that the bikies, while being singled out as criminal figures, have become talismanic targets of a more dangerous tendency in the expansive state," Mr Kampmark wrote.
"Even more troubling, such measures have been given approval by the country's highest tribunal, thereby justifying shoddy executive discretion and judicial compliance."
In Canberra, a related debate has played out around the proposed introduction of anti-consorting laws, which would ban certain individuals from meeting each other, regardless of criminal history.
Although human rights advocates have described anti-consorting laws as an assault on freedom of association, ACT Policing has expressed support for such measures in the past.
Last year Canberra's Rebels bikie gang took the unusual step of speaking out against anti-consorting proposals.
"If such a law is enacted here, it will mean that some people may not even be able to meet to have a coffee or a beer without committing a criminal offence – even if they have never been in trouble before," a Rebels spokesman said at the time.
Canberra has seen a surge in bikie-related violence recently, with two shootings linked to gang activity in the past week.
Following the latest incident in Canberra's south, Detective Superintendent Ben Cartwright said ACT Policing was coming after motorcycle gangs "hook, line and sinker".
"They're a scourge on our community and I want them gone," Mr Cartwright said.
But Mr Kampmark presented a different view, saying everyone could learn from the bikies' struggle for civil liberties.
"Australia's motorcyclists have become citizen activists, keen to express a high octane, stubborn version of freedom on the one hand, while embracing a far more orthodox, mainstream view of liberty," he said.
"The brittle nature of such freedoms has become all too apparent, lending merit to the idea that we are all, irrespective of our association with motorcycles, bikies now."