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Saturday, July 4, 2015

AUSTRALIA - SA bikie laws: Liberals to oppose crackdown

A BIKIE crackdown that would use legislation to declare 27 gangs as criminal groups will be opposed by the Liberal Party as it demands greater court oversight of anti-association laws.

The Advertiser can reveal a majority of the Liberal partyroom has agreed to move amendments to the State Government’s latest anti-gang laws when debate resumes.

The most significant change is opposing Labor’s plan to use legislation to declare bikie groups — including the Mongols, Hells Angels and Rebels — as organised crime gangs.

Opposition Deputy Leader Vickie Chapman said the Liberals supported a system where the Government could make regulations outlawing gangs that were subject to judicial review.

Regulations are submitted to Parliament by ministers and can be rejected by vote of either house.

Ms Chapman conceded this system could mean some of the 27 gangs the Government wishes to outlaw, particularly those which operate outside SA, would not be declared.

Ms Chapman said a judicial review would ensure proper process was followed by the minister.

“We will not accept an autocratic list at the command of (Attorney-General) John Rau, that he wants us to just rubber stamp and bypass even any process rules,” she said.

“With a strengthened regulation procedure, they can still achieve their objective.

“But we won’t give a statutory endorsement blind.”

Under current laws, police must convince a Supreme Court judge that a particular group has been formed with the purpose of carrying out acts of organised crime or violence.

Once the court outlaws a gang, further controls can be placed on its members to ban them from meeting or associating. Police have not yet sought a declaration from the Supreme Court.

The Government says the current system is too complex and getting the evidence required for a declaration is impossible. It says Parliament should instead declare the gangs as outlaws itself.

The Opposition is also demanding Parliament’s crime and public integrity committee be given access to police intelligence used to justify gang declarations made by the Government.

Mr Rau last night said the Liberals were opposing the most important part of his crackdown.

“They’re trying to have their cake and eat it too,” he said. “They’re trying to appear like they’re supporting this, but they’re gutting the Bill so that the only thing that is the same is the name.

“They’re opposing it, but they don’t want to say that because they haven’t got the guts.

“They are so internally split, that the only decision they can take is a non-decision.”

The legislation was debated in the Lower House a fortnight ago, when former Liberal leader Isobel Redmond revealed a split in the party and pledged to oppose the legislation.

Several other Liberals including Ms Redmond’s former deputy Mitch Williams also voiced concerns about Parliament declaring gangs illegal with “no proof”.

The Government says debate on the crackdown may resume in the Upper House this week.

Under Labor it would be illegal for:

Bikie groups to recruit.

For members to be out in public with two or more others from their group.

To enter licensed premises wearing club colours or logos.

Meetings to be held at prescribed locations.

Parliament would pass a law banning 27 groups and police could then apply to the court for powers to stop members from meeting.

The Liberals propose:

Groups not be banned using legislation.

Instead, the Government would provide a regulation to Parliament naming a gang.

The regulation could be voted down by either House.

It would also be subject to a judicial review and could be rejected if the court found the Government did not have enough evidence that the gang was involved in organised crime.