High Court ruling just the beginning for bikies rights
Many Australians will be welcoming yesterday’s High Court decision in the case of The State of South Australia v. Totani & Another HCA 39 (2010). This is the second legal defeat of this unjust and draconian piece of South Australian legislation.
While most Australians will see the decision as a big win for the bike clubs against the money-wasting, selfish and bloody-minded South Australian Labor Government, from the United Motorcycle Council NSW stand-point it‘s just one more step in the right direction. We have to continue to fight until these hastily enacted and unworkable laws are defeated in our state as well.
There’s no doubt though that we are off to a very promising start. Mike Rann backed himself in the South Australian Supreme Court and lost, then with significant egg on his face took his war to the High Court using taxpayer funds only to lose there as well.
The best legal minds in the country didn’t think his laws were good for Australians – and neither do we.
What played out yesterday in the High Court was little more than what Australians are lucky enough to have come to expect from our institutions and elected representatives. For example, in terms of law and order, we expect our judges to make fair and independent judicial decisions; from our elected politicians and lawmakers we expect accountability and transparency; from our Police Services we expect that responsible and fair judgement will be exercised in the enforcement of our laws.
All Australians should be rightly rejoicing the South Australian decision. But let me assure you – the battle isn’t completely over yet, and we are still at risk of these bad laws in NSW. So we have our work cut out for us raising awareness amongst ordinary Australians about what these so-called “Anti-Bikie Laws” really mean and why we are opposing them in all states.
Australians are no mugs, yet talking with people about the laws we know there’s still a lot of confusion out there. Some people think the laws mean that motorcycle clubs have already been banned and ask us how we can dare to be still riding around in club colours. Others believe that motorcycle clubs can no longer meet together in public, go to the pub or even go out for a ride together.
The important message we want to communicate to all Australians is that the so-called “Anti-Bikie Laws” actually say nothing about bikes, clubs or motorcyclists – they could be applied to any group of Australians. It’s just unfortunate that the current preference for over the top, heavy-handed Policing against motorcyclists does nothing to dispel the myths and confusion.
For some time now the member clubs of the United Motorcycle Council of NSW together with many other parties in the Civil Rights, Legal and Religious quarters have voiced concerns in terms of these so-called “Anti-Bikie Laws” and their potential for serious abuse.
OK, so the South Australian laws were today found to be illegal with respect to the Australian Constitution. But what does this mean in terms of the laws in New South Wales? Some people are claiming NSW laws are going to be different to those in South Australia in many ways. I am not a lawyer, but all of us in the United Motorcycle Council have our own views about their legality and this is also in the process of playing out in the courts at present.
Clearly bad laws can sometimes be regarded as legal just as other draconian practices such as slavery were once legal back in their day. Through our UMC member clubs and other contacts we have done a great deal of our own research into these laws. From many perspectives we feel the New South Wales laws are unjust, unnecessary and a serious breach of human rights. Once you look into things it becomes pretty clear.
To summarise some of our concerns:
• They are unjust and unfair - they allow use of dubious ‘Police Intelligence’ and untested evidence and deny the fundamental right of an accused to a transparent and fair process. This is a fundamental pillar of our legal system as well as a recognised basic human right.
• They are unnecessary - the majority of Australians feel that their Police Services have already been given many significant powers to effectively deal with criminal and alleged criminal activity.
• They are politically motivated and reactionary – we have seen this today in the defeat of the South Australian legislation. Clearly the laws were hastily implemented with no solid legal consultation.
• They will unfairly punish numerous incidental people by affecting normal social and family interactions.
• They could also backfire in other ways such as through removing the fundamental rights for people’s normal and legal livelihoods in a range of occupations.
In the final analysis we don’t just think the New South Wales laws are wrong, we also think they are unworkable.
Ferret is the spokesperson for United Motorcycle Council N.S.W
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