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Why LNP changed its tune over bikies after originally opposing tough laws

Renee Viellaris

The Courier-Mail

October 18, 2013 2:48PM

IN the comfort of Parliament House, on level 6, Lawrence Springborg asked the two bikies in front of him, ``If you're not fighting about drugs, what are you fighting about?''

``Bitches,'' one of them replied.

The Outlaw and Hells Angel went on to explain to the then deputy Opposition leader that people - mostly other bikies - who failed to show respect felt the wrath of the gangs.

Months after cuts were made, the crime watchdog is getting a seven million dollar boost to help the crackdown on bikies

The impromptu meeting in November 2009 was sparked after scores of bikies descended on Parliament House to protest the ``draconian'' anti-association laws being introduced by then Premier Anna Bligh.

Mr Springborg, now the Newman Government's Health Minister, sent for representatives of the heavily-tattooed and leather-clad men who had packed the public gallery.

Details can be revealed about the meeting with Mr Springborg, who didn't flinch as then Outlaw bikie Russell "Camel" Wattie and Hells Angel Mark Nelms vented their frustration about police ``kicking down their doors'' and Ms Bligh's tough new laws.

Mr Springborg asked them whether they were carrying out illegal practices at their club houses.

Police have continued their crackdown on outlaw motorcycle clubs, arresting four people in relation to unlawful debt collecting

``Do you think I'm f***ing stupid?'' Nelms asked.

``If we were going to conduct criminal activity do you think I'd do it in a place that gets raided by the police every week?''

It is understood Mr Springborg implied the Coalition would not support the Bligh government's laws but would come down hard on any criminal enterprise. The laws passed but not with Coalition support.

The then Opposition Leader John-Paul Langbroek, who was not at the meeting, said at the time that the Government's proposed laws gave police too much power.

``The police here have said `we won't abuse the laws', now that's not exactly a ringing endorsement. If you give anybody too much power there will always be someone in the organisation who will abuse it,'' he said at the time.

However, he also stressed the Coalition would targeted organised criminals and strip them of their finances.

This week, Mr Springborg, Mr Langbroek and the rest of the Liberal National Party voted for the Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment Bill 2013 - the toughest bikie laws in Australian history.

Ironically, bikies this week have began dismantling their clubhouses - the very places they are least likely to carry out criminal offences - in an apparent sign of defeat.

Law enforcement agencies believe it will take a lot more to rid outlaw motorcycle gangs and concede they may never win the war.

Regardless for bikies'penchant for drugs, violence, and human trafficking, lawyers have been left startled by the extreme legislation.

Peter Callaghan, SC, said the way the Government was wielding power was ``genuinely frightening''.

Mr Callaghan said commentators were overplaying the ability of the High Court to overturn the laws.

``They (Newman Government) have an extreme majority in our only house of Parliament - there is no Senate to keep them in check, no Bill of Rights to which they are accountable.

``And everyone should understand the limits to which the Constitution can protect us.

``We are not the USA. Our Constitution makes no bold declarations. It is a very limited document (because) its principal function was to identify the powers that the states were willing to give up in 1901.

``Law enforcement was not one of them.

``No one should be thinking `she'll be right' because the High Court will save us - there are strict limits on what the High Court can do.

``And even if these laws are successfully challenged in the High Court, they could occasion major miscarriages of justice before then. Remember the Government has explicitly stated that it is not just bikies who might get caught by the VLAD Act.

``The machinery of state is a powerful vehicle, and it is being driven around a blind corner, at top speed and without any regard for the caution signs.''

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