Unclear if US strike killed Shebab leader

US forces have carried out air strikes against senior members of Somalia’s al-Qaeda-linked Shebab rebels, with casualties reported but uncertainty over the fate of the group’s leader.


The Pentagon confirmed on Tuesday that an “operation” was carried out the previous day against the hardline militia, and that it was “assessing the results”.

“The Americans carried out a major air strike targeting a gathering by senior Al-Shebab officials, including their leader Abu-Zubayr,” said Abdukadir Mohamed Nur, governor for southern Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region.

Abu-Zubayr is the often-used name for Shebab supreme commander Ahmed Abdi Godane, listed by the US State Department as one of the world’s eight top terror fugitives.

If confirmed, Godane’s death would be a major blow for the Shebab – although Somali officials said late Tuesday they were still trying to establish who was killed.

“The Shebab suffered big casualties during the attack. We can’t give further details until we get additional information on the exact number of casualties, but what I know is that the target was the leadership,” government spokesman Ridwan Haji Abdiweli told reporters.

Washington has carried out a series of drone missile strikes in the past, including attacks reportedly targeting Godane.

“We are assessing the results of the operation,” Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said in a statement.

The Shebab refused to be drawn on speculation that Godane had been killed.

“Let the Americans say that they have killed Shebab’s leader,” a senior Shebab official said.

“So far the Americans just gave us rumours.”

The air strike comes days after African Union (AU) troops and government forces launched “Operation Indian Ocean”, a major offensive aimed at seizing key ports from the Islamist rebels and cutting off one of their key sources of revenue – multi-million dollar exports of charcoal.

“They were meeting to discuss the current offensive in the region,” Nur said.

“There were casualties inflicted on the militants.”

Nur said the strike hit a Shebab hideout used as a training camp for suicide bombers a in remote village of the Lower Shabelle region, south of the capital Mogadishu and seat of Somalia’s internationally-backed but fragile government.

On Saturday, the AU mission in Somalia, AMISOM, said it had captured the town of Bulomarer, some 160 kilometres southwest of Mogadishu.

The town was the scene of an attempted raid by French commandos in January 2013 to free an intelligence agent being held hostage.

The bid failed and resulted in the death of two members of the French special forces as well as the hostage.

AMISOM and Somali government troops were also seen on roads towards Barawe, the last major port held by the hardline Islamists,.

As the offensive gathers pace, authorities in Mogadishu said they were willing to give “misled” Shebab members one last chance to surrender.

“They can surrender within 45 days, but anyone who stands against that offer will be recognised as a criminal and brought to justice,” Somalia’s minister for national security, Khalif Ahmed Ereg, told reporters.

Godane, 37, who reportedly trained in Afghanistan with the Taliban, took over the leadership of the Shebab in 2008 after then chief Adan Hashi Ayro was killed by a US missile strike.

Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri has recognised Godane as the head of the “mujahedeen” in East Africa, although letters released after Osama bin Laden’s death show the late Saudi Islamist leader had lower regard for the Somali’s abilities.

He is included in a third category of men on whom information warrants a $US7 million ($A7.57 million) reward from the US, alongside Nigeria’s Boko Haram leader, but under the Taliban’s Mullah Omar, for whom a tip is worth up to $US10 million, and Zawahiri, who fetches $US25 million.

Celebrity photo hack: Blame Apple for its disregard for user security

In the wake of the theft of the private data and photos of dozens of celebrities, there is at least one major culprit.


Not the alleged leakers, though obviously they’re to blame, but the company that has most prominently overstated its security in the first place: Apple.

Apple is currently delighted that people are talking about how you shouldn’t take naked photos of yourself in the first place, but make no mistake: Apple has been provably irresponsible with users’ security. It is currently unclear how the naked photos were gathered—most likely through a number of different methods and different servers over a period of months if not years.

What is clear is that Apple has had a known security vulnerability in its iCloud service for months and has been careless about protecting its users. Apple patched this vulnerability shortly after the leak, so even if we’re not sure of exactly how the photos got hacked, evidently Apple thinks it might have had something to do with it. Whether or not this particular vulnerability was used to gather some of the photos—Apple is not commenting, as usual, but the ubiquity and popularity of Apple’s products certainly points to the iCloud of being a likely source—its existence is reason enough for users to be deeply upset at their beloved company for not taking security seriously enough. Here are five reasons why you should not trust Apple with your nude photos or, really, with any of your data.

1. The vulnerability is Security 101 stuff.

Up until Monday, Apple had a significant and known brute-force vulnerability in its Find My iPhone service, where you type in your Apple ID and password on your computer in order to locate your iPhone on a map. Most services that use passwords, from Facebook to Google to banks, will lock your account or at least throttle logon attempts after a certain number of failed access tries to prevent a person who is not you from making endless guesses at common passwords.

Apple itself will do this in most places—but not through its Find My iPhone service, where hackers are allowed unlimited attempts at guessing passwords. You can endlessly try password after password as quick as you like. Once a correct Apple ID password is confirmed through Find My iPhone, a hacker then has access to your iCloud account.  So a hacker could simply run an automated tool and knock on the door enough times with password guesses until he broke through. Even a decent password, like “[email protected]!” would still be vulnerable to this sort of attack. The Find My iPhone vulnerability doesn’t really rise to the level of a bug, since limiting brute-force attacks is part of the basic security design of any system—or should be.

2. The vulnerability was publicly known since May.

A Russian security group called HackApp released iBrute, a proof-of-concept tool to exploit this vulnerability, on Aug. 30. But don’t blame them, because the celebrity hacking probably took place quite a while before that. The Register publicized the lack of any sort of limit on iCloud logon attempts in May, and Apple did nothing about it, giving hackers plenty of time to bash away at accounts. Even after iBrute was publicly released, Apple didn’t patch the vulnerability until Sept. 1 and did nothing to secure accounts in the meantime. I cannot fathom how the company left this one out in the wild for months, and I suspect it will cost someone at Apple his or her job.

3. Apple defaults users into the cloud.

Clouds are wispy and ephemeral, the very opposite of secure, so why would you want to store anything in them? No one particularly does: Cloud storage has been forced on users because it suits tech companies, not because it’s what’s best for consumers. But Apple makes it very hard not to store photos in its cloud, nude or otherwise. Camera Roll automatically backs up photos (all photos) to the cloud by default, and Apple makes it difficult for average users to change the default. It’s worked. And it’s too bad, because whatever you store on the cloud has far less legal and security protection than what’s on your own computer.

Even deleting photos from your phone doesn’t delete them from the cloud, as security expert Nik Cubrilovic pointed out on Twitter. (The American Civil Liberty Union’s Christopher Soghoian has wisely suggested a “private photo” feature that doesn’t upload certain photos to the cloud.) Defaulting to the cloud is like checking baggage on an airline: People might look through your stuff, and even steal it. And like the airlines, Apple’s liability is strictly limited by the extremely generous (to Apple) agreement you sign when you purchase any of its products.

The false sense of security Apple creates by offering two-factor authentication and then not enforcing it is appalling.

4. Apple does not encourage two-factor authentication.

Two-factor authentication, in which physical possession of a particular device (like a phone) is necessary to log in to an account, is one of the most common and effective supplements to the problematic security of regular passwords. Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter, and many other services offer two-factor, though rarely by default. Still, as the Daily Dot writes, “For reasons that defy all logic, Apple makes it extraordinarily difficult to enable two-step verification,” making users wait three days just to turn it on. (In other words, if you had found out about the vulnerability on Aug. 30, you couldn’t have protected yourself until Sept. 2.) 

Apple barely publicizes its two-factor authentication and has not encouraged users to adopt it. Apple controls the default user experience for its products, and it has the responsibility for that default to be reasonably secure—which it currently is not.

5. Two-factor authentication wouldn’t have worked anyway.

Even if you were a celebrity who had enabled two-factor authentication, it wouldn’t have helped in this case because Apple doesn’t enforce two-factor authentication for iCloud logons even if you have it turned on as was reported by Ars Technica all the way back in May of 2013. Apple primarily uses two-factor to prevent credit card purchases, not to protect the privacy of your data. Though probably the least exploited loophole (due to the difficulty of using Apple’s two-factor in the first place), this is perhaps the most sheerly irresponsible security decision Apple has made. The false sense of security created by offering two-factor and then not enforcing it is appalling.

These are all problems Apple has known about for months, if not years, and did nothing to stop. Apple’s two-factor is still fundamentally broken, so even today Apple is still misrepresenting the security it can offer to its users. This is not to excuse any other services that may have been compromised, nor the hackers themselves. But whether or not any of these problems were directly responsible for the leak, Apple users, from Jennifer Lawrence to corporate executives to laptop musicians to you, should be out for blood, and other companies should use this as a lesson to double- and triple-check their own security stories. Apple will probably survive though. IPhones are so cool and pretty.

David Auerbach is a writer and software engineer based in New York. 

© Slate 2014


Djokovic, Murray renew rivalry in U.S. Open blockbuster

Sixteen years after they first met in a junior competition in France, the pair are set to lock horns for the 21st time as professionals, their sixth grand slam clash but at the earliest stage of the lot.


World number one Novak Djokovic will enter the match as the favourite, having reached the last eight without dropping a set, while Murray looked back on form in beating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to make the quarter-finals.

Murray beat Djokovic in the 2012 U.S. Open final and in the 2013 Wimbledon final and despite his form, the Serb is well aware of how tough a match he faces.

“I think Andy also performs his best in the grand slams,” said Djokovic, who is 12-8 lifetime versus Murray. “In the big matches, as the tournament progresses, he’s still fit. He still plays very high quality tennis. That’s what I expect him to do.”

The pair are the only two men to have reached at least the quarter-finals of all four grand slams this year.

Murray said there were unlikely to be many surprises between the two but in his column with the New York Times, he said the weather could be significant, a reference, perhaps, to the 2012 final when he coped better with the wind than Djokovic.

“You can’t just have the same tactics every single time you play him,” said Murray. “There needs to be some adjustments depending on the surface and the conditions. We’ll see what those are Wednesday.”

Japan’s Kei Nishikori will be hoping to rebound from his marathon win in the previous round, which equalled the latest ever U.S. Open finish of 7:26 a.m. BST (0626 GMT), when he takes on third seed Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland.

Women’s top seed Serena Williams plays Italy’s 11th seed Flavia Pennetta for a place in the semi-finals while Victoria Azarenka, the runner-up in each of the past two years, faces Russia’s Ekaterina Makarova.

(Editing by Frank Pingue)

Misbah mea culpa after Sri Lanka disaster

Pakistan’s cricket captain Misbah-ul Haq has admitted his failure with the bat was a “big factor” in his team’s disastrous tour of Sri Lanka.


Pakistan were beaten 2-0 in the Tests and lost the three match one-day series 2-1 in August.

Veteran Misbah has held Pakistan’s frail batting order together since being appointed captain in 2010, and was the world’s leading scorer in one-day cricket last year with 1373 runs.

But age appeared to be catching up with the 40-year-old in Sri Lanka where he scratched out a total of just 67 runs over both Tests and the same in the three one-dayers.

“If I take pressure it won’t solve the problem, my contribution as a batsman was not there and it was a big factor,” he said on Tuesday.

“I should do more work on my basics and try to come back in form as soon as possible because when you play as a senior batsman in the team your contribution is very important.”

Newly appointed coach Waqar Younis and batting coach Grant Flower have come under fire since the losses but Misbah said it was too early to pronounce judgment.

“Whatever staff is with you, they try to help you and do the hard work with the players and work with the team, but sometimes when you come into such a situation where results don’t come, it needs some time… before the next series we have time to eradicate whatever weaknesses we have.”

Misbah and Younis met Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Shaharyar Khan on Tuesday to plan for their next two series against Australia and New Zealand – both in United Arab Emirates.

Pakistan plan to hold a training camp later this month to tune up for the series against Australia, which starts with a Twenty20 international in Dubai on October 5.

Asylum seekers fill jobs Australians refuse to do

Tamil asylum seekers have filled jobs in regional south-east Queensland that locals refuse to do, cleaning up garbage dumps and rubbish from roadsides.


The Western Downs, about 300 kilometres West of Brisbane, is prime agricultural land and experiencing a coal seam gas boom.

“We’ve very little unemployment across the Western Downs, we’re under three percent, that’s tremendous. We’ve a huge energy sector here, a very vibrant and prosperous agricultural sector,” said mayor Ray Brown.

Listen: Stefan Armbruster talks to workers at Western Downs.

The unemployment rate is less than half the national or Queensland levels but the downside is low-paid, low-skilled work is left undone.

The Tamils were paid above award wages for their clean-up efforts.

Critics said the jobs should go to locals not asylum seekers but mayor Ray Brown had a simple answer.

“The first reaction they offer is how come you don’t employ our own people, well I’m sorry but our own people aren’t prepared to do it, it’s as simple as that,” he said.

“We’ve tried through work for the dole, volunteer organisations, service groups, and community sports groups and pay them accordingly, but look this is a great outcome for our communities, they’ve seen what’s occurred here and they’re very happy too.”

Over the past months, four Tamil asylum seekers have regularly travelled to the Western Downs from Logan, south of Brisbane.

“I like to keep busy, I like to support myself, I like working and I don’t want to stay in my home, I like to keep busy,” said one, named Puchu.

He and fellow Tamils Mohan, Jenny and Raja were still waiting to hear if Australia would accept their refugee claims or send them back to Sri Lanka.

They arrived before August 2012, when the federal government removed work rights for bridging visas.

“These guys they’ll get up for you at 2 o’clock in the morning; they’ll get up for you at anytime during the day; they’re more than happy to help and don’t even want money for it sometimes,” said Trent Ker from the refugee settlement agency Access, which secured them the work.

“You explain to them that’s not what we are asking, we’re asking just asking you to come into work. They’re amazing, I’ve never seen anything like it in my life.”

Environmental regulations required councils to keep dumps clean or face fines of up to $1 million.

Mayor Ray Brown met the four Tamils at the Moonie waste-transfer station to thank them for their efforts.

“It’s a great opportunity to catch up with you all and thank you because we’ve tried very hard over the years to get community groups to do this, and to me this is a win-win, while you get your paper work in order,” he told them.

Mr Ker said that was were the downside came in.

“The major challenge is not the language or them doing the job, the biggest challenge is when they get rejected by Immigration, that really touches my heart,” he said.

“You build these relationship with them and see what sort of people they are and Australia sends these people back. That’s the hardest thing for me, to see these people go through that. It’s just heartbreaking.”

Quintana’s Vuelta dream comes crashing down

The Colombian misjudged a corner on the descent of Alto del Moncayo, flipping over his bike as it broke apart in the barrier, causing injury to his left foot, knee and back.


He spent nearly two minutes on the ground before he remounted his bike, finishing the stage in 82nd, more than four minutes behind stage winner Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep).

The Giro d’Italia champion now sits 11th overall, 3min 25sec behind new race leader Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo).

“I was feeling great in the uphill, but at that point of the descent my bike simply did not brake enough,” said Quintana.

“Before the turn, I was tightening my shoe, which was a little bit loose, but I think that didn’t have an effect on my crash. The thing is that I kept breaking for quite long, but it wasn’t enough because the bike didn’t stop, and I crashed.

“Fortunately, I could avoid having a bigger crash and I did not hurt myself really badly. I’m hurting my left ankle and I also have blows all over my body, but I hope it’s nothing serious. This is cycling. I lost some time and I might be switching to help out Alejandro (Valverde) so we can conquer the overall podium.”

Bittersweet day for Movistar

While it was a bad day for Quintana, his team-mate Valverde put in a strong time trial performance to finish 22 seconds behind Contador to move into second overall.

“I’m happy with myself. We’re staying in second place, really close to Alberto, but it’s a bittersweet taste with Nairo’s crash,” said Valverde.

“I didn’t know anything, I was told when I finished. It’s awful to have such a crash, when you’re in the lead, clocking good times. Being the two of us closer in the overall would have been better for our interests, but the only important thing now is that Nairo is still racing. I’m sure he will recover well, even though I’m told it was quite a blow. We’ll keep fighting to do great in this Vuelta.

“Losing so few seconds to Alberto and finishing before (Chris) Froome and Purito (Joaquim Rodriguez) is fantastic. I know tomorrow’s finish: it’s a demanding climb, really tough, and I just hope legs respond well. It seems like it’s going to be good weather up there and I hope it plays on my favour.”

Meet North Korea’s celebrity defector

The smiling appearance of the 20-year-old on talent and chat show ‘On My Way to Meet You’ gives little away about her traumatising life in North Korea and her family’s desperate escape.


“I was nine years old or ten. Next to the school, some street kids were there, and they were dying there,” she tells Mary Ann Jolley from SBS’s Dateline about life during the great famine in the late 1990s.

Her father was sentenced to 17 years in a labour camp for smuggling goods to China to make ends meet. He was beaten daily, but during a brief reprieve for medical treatment, Yeon-mi and her parents decided to escape.

They bribed guards to cross into China and hid from authorities, but then her father was diagnosed with cancer and given just three months to live.

“What can I do with his body after he dies? As a North Korean defector, there is no way to even comfortably die. No funeral too,” she says.

After burying her father alone in the mountains in the dead of night, Yeon-mi and her mother walked across the Gobi Desert for 24 hours in freezing temperatures to reach Mongolia.

“I saw my father’s death. It was not human, he was less better than an animal,” she says. “I didn’t want the end of my life to be like that.”

Her determination eventually saw them reach Seoul after a two year journey, and Yeon-mi vowed to speak out about the regime in the North, despite the dangers and continuing threats.

“For me it’s really dangerous, but you cannot hide the truth, they are criminals,” she tells Mary Ann.

Yeon-mi joined the chat show three years ago and has since become a familiar face. It regularly mocks the regime in the North.

“The show is actually telling the truth about North Korea,” she says. “And of course North Korea itself is propaganda and they don’t want to let people know the truth.”

She’s now also working as a reporter and newsreader for New Focus International, which has received threats from North Korea for its reporting of events there, such as the execution of Kim Jong-un’s uncle.

But family time is important to Yeon-mi too, especially with her older sister Eunmi.

She escaped from North Korea first, but Yeon-mi and her mother didn’t know she had survived the journey until an emotional TV appeal helped bring them back together seven years later.

“I couldn’t speak. I was so happy but shocked,” Eunmi says about them being reunited. She’s still traumatised by her experience and unable to talk about much of what happened to her.

“What can you say if you didn’t see [each other] for seven years?” Yeon-mi says. “There are no words for that. Just seeing each other and holding hands together.”

See the full story on tonight’s Dateline at 9.30pm on SBS ONE.

Last 8 Aussies eye US PGA Tour finale

Australia’s eight remaining contenders aim to cap a huge year with a record delegation in the US PGA Tour’s season-ending Tour Championship.


Going into the penultimate playoff series event, the BMW Championship, in Colorado on Thursday, 70 players remain in the season-long quest for the FedEx Cup and its whopping $US10 million bonus.

Just 30 will advance to the Tour Championship in Atlanta next week.

Since the FedEx Cup playoff system began in 2007, Australia’s best representation at the Tour Championship was five in 2011, and only two players made it in each of the last years.

The Australians have been buoyed by their resurgence this year, with Adam Scott, Jason Day, Geoff Ogilvy, Matt Jones, Steve Bowditch and John Senden all notching tour victories.

There are three distinct groups among them as those six players plus Marc Leishman and Steve Bowditch line up at Cherry Hills Country Club this week for their last chance to get inside the top 30.

Day (seventh in the standings), Scott (13th) and Senden (16th) are locked for Atlanta already with just their seeding up in the air, relieving some pressure and allowing free-swinging thoughts.

“The goal is to win (this week) because that will make it easier to win the FedEx Cup,” Day said.

“If you get into the top five (in the standings) going to Atlanta then you know a win there will win it all so that’s the goal.”

Ogilvy (24th) and Appleby (26th) are likely safe after recent runner-up finishes but cannot be certain – a precarious place for two veterans hoping to rebuild tbheir major championship status.

Just getting to the Tour Championship brings exemptions into the Masters, US Open and British Open in 2015.

For Ogilvy the carrot is Augusta National after missing the last two Masters while Appleby, a veteran of 55 majors, has missed the last 15 majors in a row.

“I don’t feel safe. I definitely have to perform,” Appleby said.

“A win is the ultimate but a top 10 would be nice.

“I won’t be watching the projections. There is too much stress involved.

“If it happens for me this week it will be because I make it happen.

“I have been dreaming of making the Tour Championship and getting back to the majors but I know I am not there yet.”

Bowditch (45th), Leishman (47th) and Jones (67th) are well aware nothing short of a huge week, probably top five or better, will give them a chance to progress.

“We don’t really have an option other than go for it,” Bowditch said.

“But it is a golf course you can get a run going so it should be fun.

“My goal at the start of the year was to try to get in the top 30 and I still have a chance so I’m looking forward to it.”

Russia and NATO square off over Ukraine

Russia has declared NATO a major “threat” after the Western military alliance announced plans to reinforce defences in eastern Europe because of the Kremlin’s perceived stoking of war in Ukraine.


Moscow’s surprise declaration of a shift in its military doctrine came just ahead of a NATO summit in Wales on Thursday at which beleaguered Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko will lobby US President Barack Obama for military support.

Obama will deliver a message of firm NATO support for its newest members from the former Soviet empire when he visits the tiny Baltic state of Estonia on Wednesday.

The Russian national security council’s deputy secretary Mikhail Popov said NATO’s plan for new fast-response units in eastern Europe was “evidence of the desire of US and NATO leaders to continue their policy of aggravating tensions with Russia”.

Popov said he had “no doubt that the question of the approach of NATO members’ military infrastructure to our border” will be taken into consideration as “one of the foreign military threats to Russia” when the country’s defence doctrine is updated later this year.

Popov added that Russia’s 2010 military doctrine – a document that already permits the use of nuclear weapons in case of grave national danger – would focus more on overcoming NATO and its new European anti-missile defence system.

Ukraine on Tuesday reported losing 15 more soldiers in the latest day of clashes with Russian-backed insurgents whose ongoing offensive threatens to stamp Moscow’s permanent hold on the eastern half of the ex-Soviet state.

The United Nations’ refugee agency said on Tuesday that the fighting has driven more than half a million people from their homes in addition to claiming an estimated 2600 lives.

The Ukrainian president’s appeal for European military assistance in the face of Russia’s alleged dispatch of crack troops into the conflict zone was dismissed at a meeting of EU leaders in Brussels at the weekend.

But NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that the 28-nation alliance would endorse the establishment of a force of “several thousand troops” that could be deployed within “very few days” to meet any perceived Russian military movements in eastern Europe.

The New York Times reported the rapid-response unit would be supported by new NATO members such as Poland that were once Soviet satellites but now view Russian President Vladimir Putin with fear and mistrust.

Yet the plan would be of no immediate help to Ukraine’s government because since the country is not a member of NATO – a point stressed by Obama in his rejection of calls to involve the US military.

London’s Royal Institute for International analyst Affairs Robin Niblett added that “any type of overt military intervention (by NATO) is highly unlikely” because many members – including Russian trade partners Italy and Austria – do not see a sufficient threat in the Kremlin.

Poroshenko convened his national security and defence council late on Monday to discuss mounting setbacks in the mostly Russian-speaking regions in which the army had until recently put rebels on the back foot.

“The situation is difficult but the Ukrainian fighting spirit is stronger than that of the occupants,” Poroshenko said in reference to more than 1000 Russian soldiers that NATO believes the Kremlin has sent across the Ukrainian border in recent days.

Moscow on Monday again denied either sending or planning to deploy troops into eastern Ukraine. Officials dismiss allegations that Russian intervention is being used to carve a land corridor from Russia to the Crimean peninsula – another Ukrainian region which Russia took over in March.

Separatist commanders have termed Russian soldiers in their ranks as having come while off-duty or on vacation.

That admission prompted Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk to declared that Kiev would abandon its non-aligned status and seek NATO membership in the coming years – a development Russia would intensely oppose.

Kremlin foreign policy adviser Yury Ushakov has said that Putin had recently told European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso in private of Russia’s ability to capture Kiev in two weeks if it wished.

High Court challenge to Queensland anti-bikie laws

(Transcripts from SBS World News Radio)

A High Court challenge to the Queensland’s controversial anti-bike laws has begun in Brisbane and outcome will have national consequences.


The laws ban criminal groups associating in public and carry lengthy prison sentences.

Queensland government says the laws have cut crime, but opponents say they undermine the courts, and deny freedom of speech and natural justice.

Stefan Armbruster reports.

(Click on the audio tab above to hear the full report)

It’s a rumble at the highest level⦠bikies versus the Queensland government in the High Court.

The United Motorcycle Council of Queensland represents 17 clubs and has a one million dollar fighting fund.

Spokesman Mick Kosenko says they are arguing for the right of freedom to associate and that the laws poses a threat to everyone.

“It’s every Queenslander. and there’s nothing about any group or anything, if there’s three or more people, they don’t have to be in a club, association or anything, and once they get rid of the motorcyclists they’ll just move on to the next group, and the next group.”

Gatherings of three or more people of an organisation can be charged, and the onus is then on them to prove their group has no criminal intent.

Under the Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment, or VLAD, laws those prosecuted face an additional mandatory sentence of up to and extra 25 years if convicted.

They were rushed through parliament in October after a brawl between bikie gangs at a Gold Coast restaurant.

The Queensland government said it was drawing a “line in the sand”.

The bikies argue the laws are unconstitutional, undermine the judiciary and freedom of speech.

“There’s a lof of people who can’t get on with their lives. That’s why we brought it forward because to help all the people living who are living in limbo with these ridiculous laws, a lot of whom haven’t got criminal records and have never been criminals in their lives but are being persecuted by the government.”

The government was not available for comment while the case is before court but has said the laws are a needed for the war on organised crime.

The outcome of the hearing is being closely watched by the Commonwealth and the states and Territories.

The High Court’s decision will determine how far they can go with similar legislation.

The seven High Court judges are expected to hand down a quick decision at the end of the case, with eleven prosecutions on hold because of this challenge.