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anti-bikie laws

A group of bikies are upset about new anti-bikie laws that mean they will be targeted by police even if they are law abiding citizens. Source: News Limited

AT THE current rate of escalation in the ''War on Bikies'' we can logically expect armoured personnel carriers growling their way down the Nerang-Broadbeach Rd by about Christmas and Predator drones circling on constant station above the high-rise towers of Broadbeach.

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" are conducted.

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 motorcycle clubs.

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 Bjelke-Petersen era.

This has nothing to do with partisan politics - I railed at length, and 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 shoplifting?''

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?