Bikie gangs in police sights as Victoria introduces new anti-consorting bill
New anti-consorting laws targeting outlaw motorcycle gangs to be introduced in the Victorian Parliament will not be effective if there is not enough police to enforce them, the state's Opposition says.
The Government will on Tuesday introduce legislation that will allow police to issue notices if they believe two people are associating with each other in order to commit an offence, if one of them has already been convicted of breaking the law.
If they continue to associate, police will then be able to charge them.
Earlier this month South Australia introduced new laws that declared bikie gangs criminal organisations, making it an offence to wear associated clothing, or colours, or gather in public.
Attorney-General Martin Pakula said the legislation was a step towards a more uniform approach to bikie gangs across Australia.
"These are essential new laws in making sure outlaw motorcycle gangs aren't displaced from surrounding states into Victoria, and that is extremely important in interrupting the ice trade," Mr Pakula said.
"New South Wales and South Australia have more recently introduced consorting laws that we believe have had the effect of displacing outlaw motorcycle gang membership from those states into Victoria.
"We've seen a growth over the last 12 months of ... membership and activity and that is something Victoria Police has asked us to remedy.
There are indeed anti-consorting laws in place right now in Victoria, but sadly they have proven to be quite ineffective.Martin Pakula, Attorney-General
"There are indeed anti-consorting laws in place right now in Victoria, but sadly they have proven to be quite ineffective."
But shadow attorney-general John Pesutto said there was not enough police resources to effectively enforce the new laws.
"Our main concern is that Daniel Andrews is asking Victoria Police to do more with less," Mr Pesutto said.
"As Victoria's population is growing, there's been no increase at all in net numbers of police officers around the state.
"Tougher laws may be a good thing, but you can't introduce tougher laws if you're not going to invest in the police needed to enforce those laws and expect the intended outcome.
"We want our law enforcement agencies to have the power they need to crack down [on] these organised crime networks, who [have become] more sophisticated as time goes on.
"But if you're going to do that you need to invest in police."
But Mr Pakula said the Government had funded an extra 400 police custody officers, which had freed up officers on the street.
"Under the former government, hundreds and hundreds of Victoria Police hours were spent effectively babysitting prisoners in police cells rather than those officers being out on the street where they needed to be," he said.
"Now that's making and enormous difference."