Tasmanian Parliament passes law to ban bikies wearing club colours
Legislation to restrict members of outlaw motorcycle gangs from wearing club colours has passed through Tasmania's Parliament, but has been amended to reduce the Police Minister's power.
Tasmania Police had pushed for the laws to be introduced to help curb the activities of outlaw motorcycle gangs in the state — in particular the Black Uhlans, The Devil's Henchmen, The Outlaws, The Rebels and The Bandidos.
There were concerns bikie activity in Tasmania was increasing because most other states already had such laws.
The Legislative Council sat late on Wednesday night to debate the legislation, which ultimately passed on Thursday morning, six-to-eight.
Amendments introduced by independent Murchison MLC Ruth Forrest were all accepted by both houses.
They required the Police Minister and Attorney-General to each agree to list a group under the laws after receiving written advice to do so from the Police Commissioner.
Ms Forrest said the amendments attempted to address concerns the legislation would give too much power to the Police Minister alone to decide which groups would be listed.
"The Attorney-General's credibility would be on the line as much as the Police Minister's, and I think this is an appropriate approach," Ms Forrest said.
A decision to list an organisation under the laws needs to be advertised in the media, and Parliament's Subordinate Legislation Committee could also review a listing and seek to have it disallowed if it was felt an organisation had been inappropriately listed.
The Government agreed to Ms Forrest's amendments and the bill passed through the House of Assembly for the final time on Thursday afternoon.
'We still have grave concerns about this legislation'
Greens leader Cassy O'Connor said it was better the Police Minister had to have advice from the Police Commissioner before he could declare an organisation as criminal, but the changes were "a bit like putting lipstick on a pig".
"We still have grave concerns about this legislation," Ms O'Connor said.
"The bill is still a poor piece of legislation that potentially will have wider consequences and we still don't support it."
Labor MPs in the Upper House supported Ms Forrest's amendments but ultimately voted against the bill.
Labor MLC Josh Willie said while his party supported the intent of the legislation, there were concerns about the provision of natural justice.
"We believe these decisions are best placed in the court," he said.
Police Minister Michael Ferguson said the passage of the legislation was a win for public safety.
"This legislation will give police the tools they need to crack down on outlaw motorcycle gangs, as well as send a clear message that organised crime gangs are not welcome in Tasmania," he said.
The Government also plans to introduce legislation to restrict members of outlaw motorcycle gangs from consorting with each other.
Ms Forrest warned anti-consorting laws might not pass through Parliament as easily.
"The real challenge is going to be in the anti-consorting laws … there will have to be very robust natural justice provisions in that, and a court process to ensure there are appropriate rights to appeal," she said.
Bikie colours ban passes Tasmania’s Upper House
The Government introduced legislation into Parliament to create the new offence of wearing, carrying or displaying a prohibited item in a public place.
The laws give the Police Minister the power to ban the display of the club patch, insignia or logo or an image, symbol, abbreviation, acronym or other form of writing.
The laws were debated in the Upper House until late on Wednesday night before it adjourned and multiple amendments were made to strengthen safeguards around organisations whose regalia could be banned.
MORE: BIKE LAWS BEFORE THE UPPER HOUSE
After two days of debate, the laws passed by a vote of 8-6.
They will now return to the Lower House of Parliament where the amendments will be considered, but are expected to be passed by the Liberal majority.
Speaking outside Parliament in the wake of the vote, Police Commissioner Darren Hine welcomed the passage of the laws.
“It’s passed the Upper House and now it will be read again in the Lower House,” he said.
“We’re really pleased with the progress and we’re really pleased that we have another piece of legislation that can assist us to curb the criminal activities of outlaw motorcycle gangs.
“The amendments are a matter for Parliament, obviously we’ll work with the legislation that has been passed by Parliament.”
Assistant Secretary for the Police Association Andrew Bennett said the legislation was the first step in “mitigating the impact Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs have on our community”.
“Keeping the Tasmanian community safe from the impacts of crime, particularly that caused directly and indirectly by the activities of OMCGs is difficult without specific legislation,” he said.
“Our members operate in high risk environments and without appropriate laws and legislative frameworks, they are powerless to keep the community safe.”