Bikie anti-consorting laws back on ACT Liberals' agenda

Anti-consorting laws are again being drafted by the Opposition for next month's sitting of the ACT Assembly, with the Liberals' Jeremy Hanson adamant that only tougher laws will provide effective community protection against Canberra's proliferation of bikie gangs.

Satudarah members riding in Sydney. Photo: Supplied

Satudarah members riding in Sydney. Photo: Supplied

Mr Hanson's intention to re-table the laws comes after the ACT Magistrates Court denied bail on the weekend to a 30-year-old man who is president of the ACT chapter of the Satudarah, the fifth and newest bikie gang to emerge within the ACT within the past five years.

Mr Hanson, the opposition's spokesman on Attorney-General issues, has been actively promoting this legislation for almost 10 years since 2009.

He said the ACT is regarded as an "oasis of opportunity" for bikie gangs, as surrounding NSW has much stronger legal powers for its police anti-gangs task force Strike Force Raptor.

His position was supported yesterday by Angela Smith, the president of the Australian Federal Police Association, who said that the ACT community had been "put in harm's way by OMCG (outlaw motorcycle gang) members who have planned and performed drive-by shootings, violent home invasions, assaults and arsons".

"OMCGs use violence as an element of their business model," she said.

Rebels bikies Photo: supplied

Rebels bikies Photo: supplied

Mr Hanson, the opposition spokesperson on Attorney-General issues, said that the Liberals had repeatedly called for laws similar to those of NSW but these had not been supported by the government.

"We now have five bikie gangs, all having a turf war, fighting over the drug trade, fighting over other criminal activity," Mr Hanson said.

"They go to war with each other and innocent civilians . . . get caught in the crossfire."

He said that the Canberra community could consider itself fortunate that no "bystanders" had been killed or seriously injured in the gangland-style arsons, drive-by shootings and violent crimes which occurred during 2017 and 2018.

The NSW anti-consorting laws introduced in 2012 have faced criticism, with the NSW Ombudsman's office in 2016 finding an "exceptionally high level of police error" when issuing warnings. Concerns were also expressed about the excessive levels of discretion given to police officers in using the powers.

However, the ACT's former chief police officer Justine Saunders, in issuing a warning to the community in June last year that the number of bikie gangs in Canberra appeared to be growing from three to four, expressed the need to have "nationally  consistent laws in dealing with what is a national issue".

The ACT government has rejected these calls, citing potential human rights issues with the way in which anti-consorting laws could be applied.

As an alternative, the government passed crime scene security laws and anti-fortification laws, which allow police to get court order to tear down defences  at bikie clubhouses.

However, the police union says these type of laws are only useful if the ACT bikie gang chapters had fortified clubhouses.

"The issue is; they don't [have them here]," Angela Smith said.

"Anti-fortification legislation and additional crime scene powers don't come into the equation when an OMCG considers establishing a chapter in the ACT. They are not the deterrents that the ACT government would have you believe."

During annual reports hearings in November 2018, ACT Human Rights Commissioner Helen Watchirs said she would be "in favour" of a review that looked at the effectiveness of the ACT's measures, versus the effectiveness of anti-gang legislation in other jurisdictions.