Australian Lawyers Alliance conference urges members to return fire on Newman Government over its bikie laws
- 4 DAYS AGO FEBRUARY 15, 2014 1:00AM
QUEENSLAND lawyers blasted by Premier Campbell Newman as “hired guns” for bikies, are returning fire in a new campaign against the State Government.
Angry lawyers have the Newman Government in their sights after a call to arms at a national legal conference on the Gold Coast yesterday.
The Australian Lawyers Alliance urged Queensland practitioners to stand up and defend their profession against the Government’s attacks.
ALA state president Michelle James said lawyers must fight back against Mr Newman’s recent comments labelling them “hired guns” who were part of the “criminal gang machine”.
“Our profession has come under unprecedented and sustained attack from the Queensland government,” she told delegates.
“I challenge each of you to stand up for our profession with the same tenacity you display with standing up for your clients, by continuing to express your concern and disapproval of such unfortunate commentary.”
Her comments came as newly-retired Supreme Court judge George Fryberg also took another swipe at the Government over its bikie laws, saying tough legislation was not the answer.
Justice Fryberg said better enforcement of existing laws, rather than harsh new ones, was the key to combating bikie crime.
A leading human rights lawyer told the conference that the Government was acting like “John Cleese on a cocktail of drugs” and making Queensland look “ridiculous”.
Mr Fryberg retired in November after almost 20 years in the bench but not before clashing with the Government over the bikie laws.
In October, the veteran judge controversially stayed a bikie bail application after voicing concerns that Mr Newman was trying to influence his court.
The Government appealed Mr Fryberg’s decision and it was overturned in the Court of Appeal shortly before the judge retired.
His comments inflamed tensions between the Government and judiciary over the bikie laws and Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie later failed to attend Mr Fryberg’s official farewell or send a representative.
Speaking outside the ALA conference, Mr Fryberg said he had not attacked the bikie laws themselves but spoken out about Mr Newman’s perceived interference in a bikie case.
“The Court of Appeal thought that the public wouldn’t be too perturbed by the Premier’s behaviour and my view didn’t prevail,” he said.
“Over the last couple of hundred years, there have been conventions developed to deal with friction between the executive (government) and judiciary.
“We all need to remember those conventions. The fundamental need is for respect to be shown by each side to the other.”
Asked if the Newman Government was showing enough respect to the judiciary, Mr Fryberg said: “That’s the matter for the public to judge”.
Mr Fryberg said had not studied the bikie laws enough to say whether they might be overturned in a planned High Court challenge.
He said he could understand the view that ‘we want to send a message that these guys (bikies) better go interstate’.
“What happens if the same legislation is enacted in other states remains to be seen,” he said.
“I would have thought that enacting laws is really a very small part of the recipe. Enforcement is the key thing (and) this applies generally to crime.
“The thing that deters people from committing crime is not huge penalties but the fear of getting caught. If you have strong support and adequate budgets for the police so that the risk of getting caught is increased, you then have a much better chance of reducing crime.”
Mr Fryberg said while police were blitzing bikies, most had been charged under older legislation rather than the new anti-bikie laws.
“On the charges that have been brought, presumably the pre-existing laws have been doing fairly well,” he said.
Barrister Stephen Keim, SC, told the conference new laws banning deemed bikie associates from working in certain industries were the worst of the State Government’s “rush to legislate” and would drive people into “a life of crime”.
Barrister Stephen Keim at the Australian Lawyers Alliance Conference. Picture: Adam Head Source: News Limited
“It may well impale the hopes and dreams of generally law-abiding families on a stake of injustice,” Mr Keim said.
“But I think one of the worst things that the legislation does is it makes the law, the legislation, the government, our state, us – it makes us look ridiculous,” he said.
“That, if not a crime, is at least a sin.”