Bikies, Bullying and Bigotry

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Sunday, 8 June 2014 18:30 by 2353

It takes a certain amount of self-belief and trust in yourself to get to the top of any profession. Some knowledge also helps. However some people who rise to the top of various professions seem to be able to retain a sense of humbleness and a keen interest in their fellow humans — others don’t. In recent years we have seen almost every ALP government in Australia consigned to the dustbin of history, to be replaced with various forms of conservative government. While ALP governments are not perfect and there has been extensive discussion here and elsewhere as to how the ALP can revitalise so they can re-attract the voters that have ‘swallowed’ the conservatives ‘you can trust us’ campaign, let’s look at the mindset of two conservative Governments in Australia and their treatment of members of their own community.

Did you hear the one about the seven friends that went to a bar? They were arrested. No — it’s not a failed attempt at humour — it is an actual event that happened on November 1st 2013 at Yandina (which is located near the Sunshine Coast in Queensland). The reason they were arrested was that they are alleged to have connections with an ‘outlaw’ motorcycle club.

Under Queensland’s Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment Act (2013) — also known as the VLAD Laws — it is illegal for three or more members of an organisation declared illegal under the VLAD Laws to be in the one location at the same time. Originally, five of those having a drink were arrested, later two additional people were prosecuted as ‘police said they found criminal motorcycle gang “paraphernalia” at the homes of the two men’, who are alleged to be members of the Rebels Motorcycle Club.

All of the Yandina Seven — as the media has named them — have subsequently spent up to three months in ‘solitary confinement’ in Queensland prisons where they were effectively locked up for 22 hours a day. Their trials are currently scheduled for November 2014. Regardless of the ‘detection’ of ‘motorcycle gang paraphernalia’, most of the seven arrested were related and while it is possible that they were discussing how to perform illegal activity — they could have also been discussing the upcoming first birthday of the child of one of the men involved. The VLAD laws do not require the police to prove that people were planning covert or illegal activity prior to arrest and imprisonment.

According to the explanatory notes for the VLAD legislation:

The primary objective of the Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment Bill 2013 is to:

disestablish associations that encourage, foster or support persons who commit serious offences; and

increase public safety and security by the disestablishment of the associations; and

deny to persons who commit serious offences the assistance and support gained from association with other persons who participate in the affairs of the associations.

The structure and operation of these criminal associations poses particular challenges to law enforcement and the criminal justice system. The association often provides members with the impetus, support and infrastructure to further their criminal activities and their violent behavior.

While the stated intent of the VLAD Laws is to ‘disestablish associations that encourage, foster or support persons who commit serious offences’ is a crime against the English language in itself, there is some evidence that the law is being used to cover a multitude of ‘sins’. This account of the Queensland police arresting someone who was using a former motorcycle clubhouse for another business is disturbing. Will they be arresting the New South Wales State of Origin team if they beat Queensland this year so that the threat to Queensland life can be ‘disestablished’?

Even the Courier Mail is reporting that Newman is being accused of bullying the judiciary, over bailing people rather than imprisoning those accused of offences under the VLAD Laws. The alternative to bail is ‘solitary confinement’ — the fate of the Yandina Seven.

It is now history that Campbell Newman resigned as Brisbane’s Lord Mayor shortly prior to the last Local Government elections ensuring the chosen replacement Graham Quirk did not have to face a by-election to assume the role of Lord Mayor. Newman became the ‘Party Leader’ of the LNP without a seat in the State Parliament and subsequently won the 2012 Queensland election with a massive majority.

Within 100 days of the state election, Independent Australia was comparing Newman to famed Queensland Premier Bjelke-Petersen, who was never cleared of corruption charges. While it could be claimed that Independent Australia was no friend of conservative political parties, The Australian, clearly had similar concerns with Newman’s maiden speech in Parliament.

Queensland’s Attorney-General is lawyer Jarrod Bleijie who at the age of 32 has been a member of Parliament since 2009. He is responsible for the maintenance of law and order in Queensland — including introducing the VLAD Laws and appointing judges in Queensland. Since the 2012 election, one female and 17 male judges have been appointed in Queensland. Bleijie seems to think that confidential conversations between he and the judiciary are suitable for media release — with support from Newman. Justice McMurdo has a greater sense of proprietary it seems.

The Sunshine Coast Daily looks at the over-regulation of the VLAD Laws, suggesting

Many would argue the strangest new set of laws belongs to Kawana MP and Attorney-General, Jarrod Bleijie, who introduced the Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment Bill 2013 or VLAD law to clamp down on rogue bikies

and expands the issue by looking at the Federal Attorney-General’s comment that bigotry is acceptable. The paper points out it may be ‘appropriate’ to denigrate fair skin aboriginals as Andrew Bolt did, but it is illegal to let a helium balloon go on the Sunshine Coast or, rather than talking to your neighbour, you can send a formal notice to remove the tree branch that overhangs your fence.

On a serious note, the Federal Attorney-General did claim Australians have the right to be bigots. While the Federal Government’s first law officer may believe that bigotry is acceptable, others don’t, including The Age and Amy Stockwell who writes for Mamamia, a website that describes its purpose as ‘absolutely everything is up for discussion: from pop culture to politics, body image to motherhood, feminism to fashion’, explains:

Importantly, the judge found Bolt had no defence under section 18D because the articles were not written in good faith and “contained errors of fact, distortions of truth and inflammatory and provocative language”.

On hearing the decision, Andrew Bolt immediately declared it “a terrible day for free speech in this country”. Bolt’s supporters tended to agree.

In August 2012, Tony Abbott made a pre-election address to the conservative think-tank, the Institute of Public Affairs, and committed to repealing the provisions of the Racial Discrimination Act that allowed Bolt to be sued.

It seems that this is one promise Tony Abbott intends to keep.

In the 1970s, a Detroit radio announcer, Tom Clay, explored what bullying and bigotry has achieved in the middle of the 20th Century.

The point demonstrated by Tom Clay is that bullying, bigotry and hatred are learned behaviours. In a country where politicians seem to find a benefit in being ‘practising Christians’ and Abbott wears his Catholicism as a badge of honour, bullying of select groups in the community and the promotion of bigotry seems to be a permitted activity. So much for the ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ tenet in the Bible, the source moral textbook for all the different ‘brands’ of Christianity from the Catholics through to the ‘born again’.

Some Catholic Clergy have a phrase for those who religiously attend church (pun intended) on a Sunday and then practice completely different beliefs for the remaining 167 hours a week — they are ‘one hour a week Catholics’ (the typical length of a Catholic Sunday Mass). Abbott claims to be a practicing Catholic, Newman claims to have faith and while he isn’t, his immediate family are practising Catholics — yet both of them lead governments that are attempting to return their communities to a time where bullying, bigotry and hatred are acceptable learned behaviours.

Is this a case of politics alters the moral compass of these people or that they will say and do whatever is necessary to gain a few more votes?

What do you think?