priority is to keep streets safe from bikie thugs
WHAT price public safety?
That is a question Queenslanders today will
rightly ask after learning on the weekend that frontline officers have been
removed from Taskforce Maxima while it continues the fight against bikie-related
crime, at the same time as reports emerge of patched up bikies reappearing on
Few policies have polarised Queenslanders as
much as the anti-bikie VLAD legislation. Law and order featured significantly in
the 2012 state election campaign, and Campbell Newman’s LNP opposition pledged
action. That’s why no one should have been surprised or disgruntled when the
Newman government acted swiftly to eliminate this scourge after the disgraceful
2013 Broadbeach brawl.
But innovation in the face of intractable
social problems is almost always contentious. That is why the proof of any new
policy must be in its results. And no fair-minded person can honestly say the
VLAD laws haven’t transformed the streets of the Gold Coast and other areas of
Queensland for the better.
Within weeks of the law’s passing, outlaw
motorcycle gangs which had claimed to own the streets had disbanded, patched
jackets had been discarded, and clubhouses closed with office bearers, faced
with up to 25 years jail, running into hiding with their tails between their
The positive effect of the laws, in achieving
what no other Australian government had done, has made Queensland the envy of
other states. NSW has recently copied the VLAD model and is seeing a similar
reduction in bikie-related crime.
Safer Gold Coast and Brisbane streets have
also undoubtedly lifted public support for the laws. Where, in February 2014,
just 48 per cent of Queenslanders endorsed the VLAD provisions, by November 60
per cent believed the anti-bikie laws were good for Queensland and should stay.
The High Court’s validation of the laws in
November 2014 also went a long way to drown out the scaremongering of civil
libertarian types more intent on scoring political points than in protecting
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk promised before
the 2015 election that a Labor government would review the VLAD laws. But that
does not mean she has a blank cheque to dump laws which have proved effective.
The Premier’s response to the review, which is
being led by retired Supreme Court judge Alan Wilson and is due for completion
soon, will be a critical point for the Government.
Ms Palaszczuk must show her administration has
the political will to ensure the scourge of outlaw bikie crime does not return.
The Premier has already made a misstep on the
issue when seizing on the findings of her Government’s Organised Crime Inquiry
last year, which controversially linked the emergence of other forms of serious
crime, such as child exploitation, to the resources ploughed into the war on
The inquiry’s conclusions were questionable –
police Deputy Commissioner Ross Barnett rebutted any suggestion officers had
dropped the ball on pedophilia – and it was a mistake for the Government to
present the fight against different types of serious crime as an “either or”
The Government risks being very much out of
step with public opinion if the bikie laws are rolled back and the intimidating
presence of outlaw gangs once again becomes a menace on the streets of
The demonstrated results of the bikie
crackdown – including the arrest of 2573 offenders and the laying of 8582
charges – must not lead to any complacency.
Queensland must not return to a time when
bikies were so brazen they thought nothing of staging a brutal riot in front of
horrified families or having a shootout in a suburban shopping centre which
caught an innocent woman in the crossfire.
Ms Palaszczuk knows she needs to get the
policy mix right in 2016. Keeping our streets safe from criminal thugs must
remain at the top of her priorities.