Sunday, November 3, 2013

MELBOURNE CRIME DESK: Australia’s new ‘Arrest Anyone on Two Wheels’ Law

Today we welcome Luke Preston as our newest writer.  He's from down-under and has been a guest blogger before.  We liked what he did and invited him to represent what the English call the Antipodes.  (Of course to those in Oz, Britain could also be reasonably called the same.  But historically, I don't think that Australians have thought that their country is the centre of the world.)

Luke Luke tells me that he spent most of his twenties as a freelance writer, a private investigator and listening to rock ‘n roll. He drinks heavily on occasion, is a half decent musician, and his idea of a good time involves a jukebox designed to bleed ears.
After all, I did ask Luke for a headshot
Luke’s work has been recognised by The Inside Film Awards, MTV and The ATOM Awards. He writes in cafes, bars and in parking lots on the back of old fuel receipts and cigarette packets. He doesn’t believe in writers block or in the magic bullet theory and his favourite album is Exile on Main Street.
Luke’s writing is as much influenced by AC/DC and Johnny Cash as it is by Richard Stark and Raymond Chandler. He holds a Master of Screenwriting at the Victorian College of the Arts and has absolutely no intention of moving to a shack in the middle of nowhere. He likes bad traffic, noisy neighbours, cheap beer, loud bars, and has been occasionally known to howl at the moon.
Please welcome Luke Preston._____________________________________________________________

The end of WWII left a generation of lost, young men with no place to go except for the dusty highways where they would ride on two wheel metal beasts, through endless days and nights trying to find someplace to belong. They had names like Hells Angels, The Finks and The Mongols. But there was no place in society for these broken men so they embraced being outlaws in both spirit and law. Two decades later the Vietnam war began and as the years passed, more and more veterans returned to a country that didn’t recognise or want them. And more young men hit the road in search of meaning and freedom. Those days have passed and now thirty years later biker gangs have clubhouses, run charities, guns, drugs, legal businesses and not so legal businesses. At times, violence has spilled out into the streets, and the innocent have become a permanent fixture in the landscape of collateral damage.

To combat this in Queensland, Premier Campbell Newman is introducing ‘biker specific’ laws that brand 26 bikers gangs as criminal organisations. They apply to anyone on two wheels,  wearing a patch and who congregate in groups of more than three.
Here is what they are facing:
  •   Jail terms of between two and five years for members of outlawed gangs who are caught associating with each other
  • The Supreme Court would be responsible for determining which gangs are outlawed, based on evidence provided by the Police
  • The gang members would be given no warnings before charges are applied

The laws are being introduced into Queensland as I type, and are highly likely to be replicated within Victoria and NSW.  I endorse the dismantling of criminal organizations. Arrest those who have murdered, throw the book at those who deal in drugs, and jail the swine who pop off automatic gunfire into suburban streets.
But wait? Hold on a minute?
Don’t we already have laws for criminality such as that?
So what the hell is going on now?

If these laws are to be passed within Victoria, it would make it legal for authorities to arrest biker members who fraternise with one another, wear the same colors, and congregate in certain prescribed  areas. Sounds okay if you don’t think too hard about it. But if you do think hard about it, who else could these laws be applied to? If we are to brand organisations criminal because they are a bunch of people who all wear the same colors, hoon around on motorcycles and fraternise together then what about the Australia Post Service? They’re the biggest bloody biker gang in the entire country… AND THEY’RE EVERYWHERE!

And who decides what defines a criminal organization? These laws could easily be applied to activist organisations, unions or any group the Government decides to dislike for whatever reason. These new laws are so vague, they don’t even need to specify a reason for such damaging branding. If that’s the case, what happens if by some horrible accident we, the Australian people, accidently elect some crazy bigot, then who’s the next target? Religious groups, book clubs, girl scouts, football teams, people still wearing Ed Hardy tee shirts? These laws can be applied to any group any Government sees fit to dislike at that given point in time. If this was sixty years ago, these laws could have been applied to Women’s Liberation or Civil Rights Groups. In our current climate could they be applied to Same Sex Marriage advocates and let's not forget about the big one… Religion. Because people of any religion never fraternise with one another, wear similar outfits, and congregate in certain prescribed areas. And now more than ever, Australia has a diversity when it comes to religion and culture.

Arrest criminals. Arrest killers. Arrest drug dealers. But once you start arresting people based on the associations they belong to, the weak and fearful will begin doing so toward anything and absolutely everything they don’t understand. And when that happens we lose who we are as a society and the promise of who we can be.

If you want to create an outlaw, create a law that excludes people from society, and you’ll have more than enough of them than you can handle.

Luke - Sunday


  1. Hi Luke and welcome!
    While I was reading your piece, I immediately thought back to the "old" South Africa with its banned groups and regulations that more than three people associating together could be deemed in certain (often unclear) circumstances to constitute an illegal gathering.
    I've been at a few of those where students were protesting various discriminatory laws and practices. They always ended in tears - as in the gas. The message lost in the melee.
    Your point at the end about creating outlaws is spot on!

    1. Thanks Michael, great to be here. Laws like that just have bad news written all over them and are generally applied when lawmakers are trying to cut costs on traditional policing.

  2. Welcome, Luke! These are the kinds of laws we get when the police and especially the law-makers get lazy and narrow-minded. ie, it happens all the time, which is why we (those being 'protected') must remain ever vigilant, not against those we're being protected from, but rather from those protecting us.

    1. Hi Everett, I couldn't agree more. The sad thing is here in OZ it feels as if the public have become just as lazy and are allowing this type of thing to happen.

  3. Things here are a bit different. The 'biker gang' meets in the local supermarket car park. They have a wee flask of soup before they zoom off for a Sunday trip up the three lochs where they meet others (sometimes over a 100 of them) at some roadside tavern for a cocktail or two. They are middle aged accountants, software engineers and other types that need to get out more often. The only slightly offensive thing about them is beer bellies squeezed into tight leather. But each to their own, live and let live. Making somebody an outlaw just because they 'are...(fill in appropriate blank)' is never a good idea.

    1. Hi Caro, there's a fair few bikers like you've described here too. Just guys who like to ride and those guys are even choosing not to go out and ride, just in case.

  4. Welcome Luke!
    Right you are, in every respect. There have been nations that applied such laws--they are called fascists and nazis and the world has seen far too mcuuch from them already.

  5. Permit me to also say, "Welcome, Luke," as I struggle through my first 24 hours of jet lag.

    Coincidentally, I just left a country that used the "criminal enterprise" concept to arrest the leaders of the third most popular political party in Parliament. The charges include murder and the party is neo-Nazi. Many Greeks who despise that party are nevertheless voicing concerns along the same lines as you raised out of fear for its potential abuse by those in power to limit opposition. Tough call.

    Back in the US you're spot on about the biker gangs going "corporate." Indeed the most vivid color wearing hordes you'll find raising hell around the US these days call themselves such things as Patriots, Jets, Giants, Bears, Steelers...

    1. Hi Jeffrey, great to be here! These gangs are started to trade their weapons for suitcases, law makers can't keep up so they change the laws. It does leave it open for abuse.