This is the natural progression
from next week's likely announcement from
Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie (you read it here
first) that Queensland will be following the Abbott
Government's lead on the War on Refugees and
appointing a three-star general to rain hellfire
down on Queensland's motorcycle gangs.
Years ago motorists on their way
north to Queensland were met with tick gates at the
Tweed border. By about February I reckon we will
have finished the roadblocks and machine gun nests
at which anyone whose licence so much as indicates
they are allowed to ride a motorbike will be subject
to a full body cavity search and indefinite
detention without charge while "background checks"
Anyone who fails the check
(details of which are sadly not available because
they are "operational matters") will be lashed into
the wooden stocks we've just built at the beach end
of the Cavill Mall - bring your own rotten food,
stones, excrement - for a couple of hours before
being deported to an undisclosed (operational
matters again, sorry) location.
OK I'm being a bit silly, but
there is a serious point to this.
When, after all, was the last time
you saw a government of any persuasion decide that
it no longer needed certain, often special or
"emergency" legislative powers when it came to law
and order or border security?
Bear that in mind when you
consider the raft of measures being deployed by the
Newman Government to wipe out what are without doubt
some seriously unsavoury elements in some of our
Over the weekend Police Minister
Jack Dempsey's office said he was open to calling on
the military for assistance if police believed they
could benefit from such help.
While arguably there is provision
for Defence assistance in cases of civil unrest,
generally the troops have been called out in a
strikebreaking capacity, the first time being by the
Chifley Labor Government in 1949 to break a
crippling coal strike and, more recently, Bob Hawke
in the 1989 pilots' strike.
Judging by the chest-thumping
rhetoric coming out of George St in recent days
though, I suspect any imagined military intervention
involves dreams of M1A1 Abrams main battle tanks
heaving into combat against phalanxes of Harley
Davidsons rather than mere logistics support.
The prospect of Bleijie and
Dempsey re-enacting Black Hawk Down (and
didn't that end well for all concerned?) over Robina
follows confirmation that legislation will be rushed
through Parliament aimed at denying bikies bail
regardless of how minor the offence they are accused
of may be.
In short the onus of proof will
shift from the police and prosecutors to the
accused, which to my admittedly lay mind is a fairly
worrying step towards abandoning that most
fundamental legal principle of "ei incumbit probatio
qui dicit, non qui negat" - the burden of proof lies
upon him who affirms (accuses), not he who denies.
This, of course, comes
hand-in-hand with beefed-up proceeds of crime laws
where again the burden of proof appears to have
shifted from the accuser to the accused.
Then throw into the mix even
tougher "association" laws, which go so far as to
prevent groups of three or more bikers riding
together and allowing police to stop, search and
photograph anyone in bikie club colours.
All of this will be steamrollered
through our one chamber Parliament without even
being examined via committee, bringing back dark
memories of the worst legislative abuses of the
has nothing to do with partisan politics - I
railed at length,
more than once,
against the Bligh government's "declared
organisation" laws - and everything to do with what
Frank Brennan warned of in his seminal 1983 book
about street marches, law and civil liberties in
Queensland, Too Much Order, With Too Little Law.
Harsh legislation that removes basic legal rights -
no matter how ostensibly deserving of punitive
treatment the target may be - smacks more of
hillbilly dictatorships than modern democracy.
There is, after all, no shortage
of laws to prosecute bikies, their associates (or
anyone else for that matter) for any crime you care
to select, be it money laundering, drug crime,
extortion, assault ... whatever.
As one (non-gang) motorcycle
enthusiast put it, in part, on his blog this week:
"Should all people of Mid-East appearance be stopped
on the street by police and searched in case they
are terrorists? Should all mothers with shopping
bags be stopped and searched in case they are
The danger is with such sweeping,
Draconian powers - and powers that have had little
or no legislative oversight or review - is how and
against which perceived threat they will be deployed
in the future.
To adapt a famous piece of prose:
First they came for the bikies,
and I did not speak out - because I was not a bikie.
Then they came for the trade
unionists, and I did not speak out - because I was
not a trade unionist.
Then they came for ... well, let's
leave that to the imagination shall we?