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Friday, January 16, 2015

AUSTRALIA - Queensland's bikie anti-association laws will be scrapped if Labor wins office


Opposition agrees to law society’s recommendation and also promises to review judicial appointment process after allegations of Newman government partisanship
labor leader Annastacia Palaszczuk, left, holds a press conference in Airlie Beach on Thursday, alongside Labor's Whitsundays candidate, Bronwyn Taha. Labor has pledged to cut the
Labor leader Annastacia Palaszczuk, left, campaigning in Airlie Beach on Thursday, alongside Labor’s Whitsundays candidate, Bronwyn Taha. Labor has pledged to scrap Queensland’s anti-association laws if it wins the 31 January poll. Photograph: Nathan Paull/AAP 
Labor will scrap Queensland’s anti-association laws – under which a librarian faces up to three years jail for visiting a pub with her boyfriend – if it wins this month’s election.
The state opposition has formally agreed to a call by the Queensland law society (QLS) to repeal the most controversial element of the Newman government’s “bikie crackdown”, which bans public gatherings of more than two loosely-defined “criminal organisation participants”.
The attorney general, Jarrod Bleijie, has meanwhile rejected the QLS’s call to change the way judicial appointments were made, following his widely condemned decision to elevate Tim Carmody to supreme court chief justice.
“The Newman LNP government will continue to make merit-based appointments as it has done since assuming office,” he told QLS in reply to its “call to parties” for election commitments.
The 32-year-old former conveyancing solicitor’s term as attorney general has been dogged by allegations of partisan appointments.
Labor agreed with the QLS to “review current processes” and establish new protocols for appointing judges and magistrates “in consultation with stakeholders”.
The opposition said it would “replace the ‘bikie laws’ with legislation that will specifically target all organised crime activity, not just by motorcycle clubs”.
“Under Labor’s laws, people will be punished for what they do, and not with whom they associate,” it said in reply to the QLS’ ”call to parties” for election commitments.
That suggests Labor will also scrap the Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment laws which add up to 25 years to jail sentences for crime gang “participants”, as well as laws that ban bikies from recruiting, having clubhouses, and working in industries such as electrical trades and tattooing.
A high court challenge by Hells Angel Stefan Kuczborski failed to overturn the laws after the court found the tattooist, who had not been arrested or formally dealt with by the laws, had no standing.
Librarian and mother of three Sally Kuether – alleged, along with her boyfriend Fred Palmer, to be a “participant” in the bikie gang Life and Death – faces trial under the anti-association laws over a visit to the Dayboro pub in December 2013.
A conviction brings a mandatory minimum six-month jail term.
Bleijie said the laws were fair and effective, and were having a “significant impact on criminal activity”.
He linked a “dramatic” drop in reported crime statewide to the arrests of more than 1,500 gang members and associates on nearly 4,200 charges since October 2013.
Labor agreed to restore the Murri court for Indigenous offenders, the special circumstances court for offenders with mental disabilities and the drug court.
These were all scrapped by Bleijie for what he said was “lack of evidence that these specialist courts were effectively reducing recidivism”.
Bleijie also rejected a call to lift restrictions on public funding to community legal centres who engaged in “advocacy activities” that might involve criticism of the government.