The State Government has singled out the issue of outlaw bikies at the expense of so many others.Source: News Limited
CAMPBELL Newman should be hoping there is more than cheese on some of the pizzas delivered on the Sunshine Coast.
The fact is that the Newman Government’s credibility in pursuing outlaw motorcycle gangs now rests precariously on a single court case involving five men who allegedly met for a drink at the Yandina Hotel two months ago.
That’s a bad position to be in, particularly when you’re banking on the tough new anti-association laws being a crucial key in a re-election bid.
Let’s just ignore – for a start – how extreme the anti-association laws prohibiting bikies meeting might be, or whether they will be ruled a violation of human rights.
Let’s also put aside the issue of whether they will be cut down in the High Court, or even whether they deem illegal a group ice-cream buy.
To be fair to the Government, and its genuine attempt to crack down on serious law-breakers, let’s also dismiss the drama over whether those arrested are holed up in solitary confinement or dressed in pink jumpsuits, or forced to choose between calling their family or their lawyers.
Despite all of that, the fact that this law and the Government’s credibility in the law-and-order debate now rests on the Yandina Five shows a failure on several levels.
Firstly, the Government is rapidly losing the PR war, and community support, because of the focus on two specific cases.
In the Yandina case, one of the accused has told the court he was simply delivering pizza, that he had never owned a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, ridden with a motorcycle gang, or attended club functions.
If that proves right, the law and its policing is going to look very silly.
In a second case, lawyer Bill Potts claims a group of childhood friends from Victoria have been thrown into jail because they met up together on the Gold Coast for a holiday.
Now the correct place to test all assertions – both from police and the defence – will be before the courts, but a failure in these first celebrated cases will prove costly for a government and a leader already being compared to Joh Bjelke-Petersens.
But already, what was aimed as a genuine assault on illegal activity – a good news story for a government needing to be seen to be doing something – has become the butt of dinner table jokes about ordering pizza.
And that’s a loss in the PR game.
Secondly, the Government has singled out this issue at the expense of so many others in a bid to go to the polls showing it is determined and successful; that it is tough enough to take on the big boys of crime, and determined to win.
That’s admirable, if not high-risk, particularly given the amount of other crime we are more likely to fall victim to, and some of the punishments being meted out for those.
Where’s the outrage over the trashing of a house after an out-of-control Facebook party by a group of thugs who need to grow up?
Or the crackdown on unruly teenage groups after a couple were bashed and mugged in an Ipswich park this week?
Or where are our policing priorities when a man is fined for stretching his leg while riding a motorbike to work?
The Government is hellbent on making outlaw motorbike groups its target; so there is no loophole if it misses the bullseye.
Thirdly, our state’s judicial system has form in doing a poor job. Remember the High Court ruling to quash Jayant Patel’s conviction on the back of the DPP’s performance?
Or if you need other examples, look at the controversy that enveloped the trials of American Gabe Watson or politician Pauline Hanson or former magistrate Di Fingleton.
So how can we be sure that a law that is extremely tough by any standard will be policed and implemented fairly and properly?
Incidentally, it comes at the same time a video surfaces of alleged police brutality in arresting a young man, and a debate about police removing “service” from their job description and adding “force”.
The Government is right to take aim at outlaw bikies but, to borrow a crime analogy, if you’re going to fire all your bullets you need to hit the target.
Am I the only one beginning to feel uneasy that too many shots are going astray?
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