The ACT government has rejected a Canberra Liberals bill to create anti-consorting laws in a bid to combat outlaw motorcycle gang-related criminal activity, for the third time in two years.
ACT Labor and the Greens on Wednesday voted down the opposition's latest bill to create the laws, despite the Liberals making some changes aiming to better protect human rights, in line with recommendations by the NSW Ombudsman on that state's anti-consorting laws.
Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay again rejected the proposals on the grounds academic evidence showed they would not curb criminal activity and could disproportionately affect vulnerable Canberrans including Indigenous residents and people experiencing homelessness.
Mr Ramsay labelled the opposition's latest push for the laws as "gutter politics" aimed at creating media headlines, rather than actually strengthening efforts against organised criminals, instead pointing to recent government reforms to help seize criminal assets and extra funding to prosecutors.
But Mr Ramsay's opposite number, Jeremy Hanson, said while there was no silver bullet, the opposition was taking their evidence from former ACT Chief Police Officers' Rudi Lammers and Justine Saunders, as well as the police union.
Mr Hanson said the government should be open to exploring any new measures that could affect criminal outlaw motorcycle gang members, claiming the government was not supporting police in their efforts, despite frontline officers backing the laws.
Greens leader Shane Rattenbury also rejected the opposition bill on similar grounds to Labor, but also cited a recent NSW Ombudsman review of the operation of that state's anti-consorting laws, saying the Liberals' did not address all the Ombudmand's concerns.
But the debate got heated when Mr Rattenbury also cited recent media reports on a Nomads' life member saying the proposals would do nothing to deter criminals, with Mr Hanson and other opposition MLAs cat-calling across the chamber, interjecting saying bikies would not want the laws.
Mr Rattenbury hit back, accusing Mr Hanson and the opposition of stunning "rank hypocrisy" that they sought to highlight bullying in Canberra's schools, but were exhibiting the same behaviour in the chamber.
He said he believed that in addition to expert academic research on anti-consorting laws interstate, it was useful to take into account the views of someone with lived experience inside an outlaw motorcycle gang, given his claims the bill would not address organised criminal activity.
But Mr Hanson said of course bikie gang members would not support new laws that could affect their operations, and he preferred to take the evidence from police working on the frontline against such criminals.
Outside the chamber on Wednesday, Mr Hanson did say the bill had taken on many of the NSW Ombudsman's recommendations, and while it was based on less extensive changes made by the NSW Legislative Council, he was open to further changes to help get it across the line.
He also said the Opposition had included a raft of exemptions that would address concerns about unintended consequences on vulnerable Canberrans, including family members, consorting at work or sporting activities.
Mr Hanson also said the bill had included an open-ended "reasonable purposes" clause that a court could use to their discretion in deciding whether any consorting charges that came before it was actually criminal or innocent contact.
But Mr Ramsay again outright rejected passing any anti-consorting laws in the territory, and the government was not open to negotiating on any bill, which he believed was not based on the available evidence.
He also said while the opposition's latest bill had taken into account some, but not all, the NSW Ombudsman's concerns, the ACT Human Rights Commission was not consulted on the final changes to the bill introduced last year.
Mr Hanson said he would continue to pursue anti-consorting laws, despite yet another rejection of a bill in the Assembly, given the support for such changes from police and community concerns about outlaw motorcycle gangs.