(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 levelâ¦ 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.