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Broad backlash over anti-association laws


UNIONISTS, church figures, Aboriginal tent embassy activists and forest campaigners have joined with biker groups to denounce Western Australia's proposed anti-association laws.

Under the Barnett government's Criminal Organisation Control Bill, groups involved in criminal activity or that "pose a risk to the public safety and order" would be declared to be criminal organisations.

Members of that group could then be subject to control orders banning them from associating, under penalty of up to two years' jail for a first offence and up to five years for subsequent offences.

Announcing the legislation last year, WA Attorney-General Christian Porter said they would be the toughest organised crime laws in the nation and would "shatter the core operations of outlaw motorcycle gangs and other criminal groups".

The United Motorcycle Clubs of WA, which has been fighting the laws since, has organised a meeting tonight of disparate groups, which is expected to call for a parliamentary inquiry into the laws.

UMC spokesman Peter "Fuzzy" Godfrey said the laws hinged on police perceptions of possible crimes in the future with no regard to basic legal rights.

The Uniting Church's Reverend George Davies, from the Perth Inner City Youth Service, will attend. He compared the bill to the notorious Section 54b law brought in under the late Liberal premier Charles Court's government in the early 1980s, which prevented more than three people meeting in public without police permission.

Mr Davies said the new law was just as discriminatory. "It gives police carte blanche to act against anyone they don't like," he said. "It's dishonest."

Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union state secretary Mick Buchan, Maritime Union of Australia state secretary Chris Cain and other unionists are also due to attend the meeting.

Aboriginal protester Marianne Mackay, who called on activists to converge on Canberra's The Lobby restaurant where Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott were on Australia Day, is going.

Seamus Doherty, from the Forest Rescue Service, who was subject to a control order during last year's Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth, said the anti-association law undermined basic freedoms.

"The right-to-associate control orders damage democracy and give control to police and unknown judges," he said.

Mr Porter has repeatedly stressed the laws would be used only to fight organised crime.

The opposition has said it would support the laws, with amendments to ensure they take into account High Court rulings regarding NSW and South Australian laws.



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