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Guilt by solidarity scary


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ILLUSTRATION: Jonathan Bentley Source: The Courier-Mail

KIN Kin is a sleepy rural hamlet about 10 minutes drive north of Pomona, on the Sunshine Coast.

It is a place best known these days for its arts, crafts and herbal teas and a terrific old pub, the Country Life, which is a great spot to pull in for an icy cold beer (just the one) after giving your mid-life-crisis car a quite serious flogging through the driver-friendly roads of the hinterland.

When the long-suffering Mrs Syvret and I pulled into town early on Sunday afternoon, the first thing to greet us was the sight of at least three Queensland police highway pursuit cars - those bright red interceptors that would look right at home in a modern re-imagining of Mad Max.

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Slowing down in preparation for an expected random breath test (no worries there), we realised our car (a burbling red V8 Commodore which on a normal day is instant cop bait) was of zero interest to our forces of law and order.

Behind the pub at the bottom of the hill were dozens of seriously powerful-looking motorcycles, with their equally no-nonsense-looking owners all clad in requisite leather and denim.

Shrug. Oh well, like us, they were probably thirsty and had stopped for one off the wood.

Good luck to them.

At least if you are on a bike you are not clogging up the roads by towing a bloody caravan.

Hang on.

As we motored slowly along the main drag we came across a full-blown police command post bristling with antennas and surrounded by at least two dozen police cars, motorcycles and God knows how many uniformed and armed wallopers.

There was enough massed firepower to put down a medium-sized insurrection, or stage a coup in a Pacific Island nation.

Back down at the pub, the friendly constabulary were handing out free drug, alcohol, licence and criminal history checks - whether you wanted one or not, apparently - to assembled members of the Gypsy Jokers motorcycle club, many of whom are reportedly on holidays from Western Australia.

Who knows, maybe the Queensland Police Service has taken the same position as the elitist enclave of Noosa and has decided Queensland, a la Fawlty Towers, needs to attract a better class of clientele?

Or maybe not.

As we ventured south towards Pomona, the police presence was overwhelming.

Or overkill, as many might see it.

So what have these blokes who just happen to have a penchant for fancy motorbikes done wrong exactly?

Maybe a couple of drink-driving sins, but then I'd argue if you breathalysed the entire patronage of any given country pub on a Saturday night you would get a better hit ratio than a bunch of bikers who know every time they so much as pass wind there's a copper watching.

The whole scene was reminiscent of Bjelke-Petersen-era police state harassment of innocent people, targeting them en masse for minor infringements in an orchestrated campaign of persecution.

Granted, there are links between some members of some motorcycle clubs and organised crime.

Some have criminal histories and some may be truly bad people with a bent for violence and drug-dealing.

But we already have enough laws to pursue and prosecute that sort of criminal activity without resorting to institutionalised harassment of a bunch of like-minded bike enthusiasts taking in the sights of the Sunshine Coast hinterland, some of whom might possibly be not the best eggs in the carton. Perhaps.

In fact, few organisations can lay claim to absolute purity of membership, and that goes for everything from the Catholic Church to the Queensland Police Service.

But back to the rule of law.

For starters, there is the draconian insanity of Queensland's Criminal Association Act (similar legislation has been successfully challenged in South Australia and NSW), which basically denies freedom of association to members of any club deemed "outlaw", while diluting evidentiary requirements in the process.

Or, as the Queensland Law Society and the Queensland Bar Association put it in a joint submission to Parliament late last year, legislation that "in large part abrogates the rule of law and denies fundamental rights to citizens".

That submission also warned this legislation "contains provisions which risk a return to the kind of police corruption which bedevilled Queensland before the revelations of the Fitzgerald inquiry in 1989".

Perhaps most tellingly, it concluded that the legislation "is not directed exclusively at 'bikie gangs' as the political statements heralding its introduction proclaimed, but potentially applies to any minority group in the community which others are prepared to vilify and target by supplying information suggesting unlawful or anti-social behaviour".

These bikies at Kin Kin on Sunday appeared to be behaving themselves - and the local publican said as much. So why the panic and persecution?

I now have a belated 2012 resolution. And that is to finally get my motorcycle licence, buy a thumping great Harley Davidson and hope I may be invited to ride with some of these blokes one day.

Then I too can be guilty of "association".


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