Terry O'Gorman Photo: Craig Sillitoe
The “toughest laws Australia has ever seen” will pass through state parliament without any scrutiny, but critics have questioned the urgency.
Premier Campbell Newman said the state's anti-racketeering laws, which are aimed squarely at criminal motorcycle gangs, would be introduced and passed at the next sitting, bypassing the usual parliamentary committee and public consultation process.
“We make no apologies for that,” Mr Newman said.
“We can then give the police and the Crime and Misconduct Commission and indeed our jail system the ability to deal with these hardened criminals.”
Just over two weeks will have passed between the government announcing the legislation was to be drafted and it being passed by Parliament.
Mr Newman said once the draft legislation was
law, “the civil libertarians and the commentators will have
their chance to pass judgment on whether those laws are
effective” but because Queenslanders “want action”,
needed to deliver it immediately.
Queensland Council of Civil Liberties vice president Terry O'Gorman said the move showed the “arrogance that comes with a thumping majority and no upper house to call a government with a big majority to account”.
“The Premier's comments, namely that he'll listen to a debate down the track...just reflect that arrogance,” Mr O'Gorman said.
“We are not asking to pass judgment on the laws; we are asking to make submissions so as to ensure the laws are as balanced as they can be.”
Mr O'Gorman was sceptical of Mr Newman's claim he would like to see a “sunset clause” applied to the law, which would put an end to the legislation when it “was no longer needed”.
“These laws, once there, will be there forever,” Mr O'Gorman said, adding that in 35-year legal career he had seen one criminal law put on a statute removed.
He said the government's move to bypass the committee process – put in place as a check and balance system given the lack of upper house in Queensland showed it was “ineffective” and “treated as a joke by a government which has a large majority enabling it to treat it as a joke”.
“It is not only populist policy, it is returning to the Joh Bjelke-Petersen era that the Fitzgerald report was so critical of, that in respect to law and order, with a government with a big majority, with no upper house to force review, the only people who are listened to are the police,” Mr O' Gorman said.
“Now Fitzgerald was highly critical of that process. Now many years on, the first LNP government, with exception of the two-year Borbidge government, since Bjelke-Petersen – same tactics.
"Ignore critics, don't consult, ram laws through, use your majority and now, bypass the only effective improvement the Fitzgerald process brought in, namely the committee review.
“There is nothing urgent about the laws. What is urgent is to have sufficient police numbers on the Coast to deal with a spike in criminal activity, including a spike in public disorder.
“The Premier has done that. He is not being called to account, as he should be, by the media as a whole to why these laws have to go through, rammed through at record speed with all the consultation and checks and balances bypassed – it is not as if there has been a court ruling which declares invalid a section of the weapons act and thereby allows bikies to have immediate access to weapons.
"That could be seen as urgent. None of the proposed laws have any urgency to them at all.”
Mr O'Gorman said the government had been able to use bikie gangs to deflect attention from the shooting of Sergeant Gary Hamrey on September 27, which was not related to gang violence.
“The Premier would have had to address the issue that this is the second police officer shot by non bikies in a little over 12 months, where the police union had been saying these things are happening because there are inadequate police numbers," he said.
"He has gotten away completely scot free on turning the agenda away from that and on to bikies.”
But the government remains committed to staying its course on the issue which has dominated the news agenda for the past week, thanks largely, to strong words from Mr Newman and Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie.
The legislation, when passed, will set down what a criminal motorcycle gang and its associates are, and inhibit identified member's social and business lives, impacting the way they meet, travel, gather and work