ACT government 'not the slightest bit interested' in anti-bikie laws
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ACT government 'not the slightest bit interested' in anti-bikie laws

The ACT's new chief police officer has echoed his predecessor's calls for nationally consistent laws to deal with the threats posed by outlaw motorcycle gangs.

But ACT Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay says the government is "not the slightest bit interested" in introducing "ineffective" anti-consorting laws or criminal organisation control orders like those in other Australian jurisdictions, including NSW, Queensland and Victoria.

ACT chief police officer Ray Johnson, who says he supports nationally consistent laws to deal with outlaw motorcycle gangs.

ACT chief police officer Ray Johnson, who says he supports nationally consistent laws to deal with outlaw motorcycle gangs.Credit:Sitthixay Ditthavong

The Canberra Liberals plan to introduce laws modelled on the NSW approach for a second time when the ACT Legislative Assembly sits this month.

The retabling of the laws comes as the opposition's spokesman on attorney-general issues, Jeremy Hanson, warns innocent people will be caught in the crossfire if a string of violent offences linked to bikie gangs continues in Canberra.

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Three bullets were fired into a Kambah home with children inside on Monday morning in what police say was the latest targeted, bikie-related attack in the capital.

Four outlaw motorcycle gangs are now active in Canberra, with the notorious European gang Satudarah the latest to set up in the capital. They join the Rebels, Nomads and Comancheros in vying for supremacy in Canberra, with the Finks having unsuccessfully tried to establish a local chapter last year.

In a statement, new ACT chief police officer Ray Johnson followed predecessor Justine Saunders' lead in calling for nationally consistent legislation to deal with serious and organised crime.

He said ACT Policing would continue to work with the territory government on appropriate powers to prevent, deter and prosecute organised crime.

"However, it is important to note that no single power should be seen as a cure-all and serious and organised crime is not limited to openly identifiable criminal gangs, such as outlaw motorcycle gangs," Assistant Commissioner Johnson said.

"ACT Policing will continue to proactively target, prosecute and disrupt those involved in serious and organised crime in the ACT, regardless of their individual affiliations."

Despite the police calls for nationally consistent powers, which have been supported by the police union, the ACT opposition's latest attempt at legislative reform in relation to bikies appears set to be crushed by the territory government.

Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay, who says anti-consorting laws and criminal organisation control orders are ineffective.

Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay, who says anti-consorting laws and criminal organisation control orders are ineffective.Credit:Jamila Toderas

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Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay dismissed anti-consorting laws and criminal organisation control orders as ineffective and said the ACT government would continue to "work in other areas", including the establishment of ACT-specific laws that would see unexplained wealth stripped from criminal gang members.

Mr Ramsay said he was working with his state and territory counterparts on other anti-bikie measures, but refused to detail those because he wanted to "stay one step ahead" of criminal gangs.

He pointed to the findings of a review by the NSW Ombudsman into that state's anti-consorting laws, which found they had a disproportionate impact on groups including Aboriginal and homeless people. The review recommended the legislation be repealed.

"They evidence is that [anti-consorting and criminal organisation control orders] are not effective laws," Mr Ramsay said.

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"We’re not the slightest bit interested in providing legislation that isn’t effective.

"There is this sense that all you need to do is have anti-consorting laws and you don't get bikies working together, but outlaw motorcycle gangs are operating outside the law. That's their mentality."

While the number of bikie gangs in the ACT has increased since the Rebels' stranglehold on Canberra slipped in late 2014, Mr Ramsay and Police Minister Mick Gentleman said the number of active gang members had not increased.

"[Canberra's criminal gang members] are the same people. The advice to me is they're not new people," Mr Gentleman said.

"What they're doing is patching over. We're seeing this change in allegiance from one gang to another, but the brief to me is that they are the same people."

Both government ministers praised the work of ACT Policing's Taskforce Nemesis, which has arrested 29 outlaw motorcycle gang members in the past year, laying 78 charges and executing 101 search warrants.

They also talked up the ACT government's role in funding the bikie-busting unit and providing police with new powers to secure crime scenes without a warrant to preserve evidence and the introduction of drive-by shooting laws.

Mr Gentleman pointed to Taskforce Nemesis' results, including the recent arrests of two men police say are the president and acting president of the Satudarah gang's ACT chapter, as proof the territory was not soft on bikies.

"Out of the number of criminal gang members we do have in the ACT, probably close to a quarter of them are now incarcerated," Mr Gentleman said.

"That's quite a message, I think, to criminal gangs coming into Canberra. If you break the law, you will be arrested and charged."

Blake Foden is a reporter at the Sunday Canberra Times. He has worked as a journalist in Australia, New Zealand and the UK.

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