There’s been a bit of a stoush in Queensland over the LNP government’s new laws targeting criminal organisations.
Apparently, the concern is that these laws mean three old grannies wearing Salvos shirts and selling jams at the local fete could be locked in the slammer. If that is the case, then it’s a bit of legislative overkill. It’s also a concerning attack on rights and freedoms.
As a result, any number of news stories have been published detailing horror scenarios and suggesting that Queensland is now some kind of police state.
However, when going through the legislation, it’s a bit hard to find anything that remotely indicates the possibility that it allows the neighbourhood Lions Club to be raided on a Tuesday night.
Because the actual definition of a criminal organisation in the legislation doesn’t sound too worrying. It’s more common-sense than anything else.
Under the new law, a criminal organisation is defined as any group of three or more people who have a primary or other purpose to organise, plan, facilitate, support, or otherwise conspire to engage in serious criminal activity.
The little group of criminal conspirators must also pose an unacceptable risk to the welfare safety and order of the community.
And for those of an inquisitive mind, serious criminal activity is any offence that is punishable by at least seven years in jail. Or other things, like threatening witnesses, grooming children under the age of 16 years, extortion by threat and sexual assault.
If the local jam-selling grannies are up to that kind of mischief, then I don’t really have a problem with the constabulary paying them a visit. And breaking up their gang.
Let’s face it. Criminal motorcycle gangs are well organised and they are into some pretty serious stuff. You don’t need to be Einstein to work out that there is a battle underway for control of the drug trade in Queensland. And it’s so bad that the reputation of the state’s premier tourist destination is now stained and tarnished. When restaurants become battlegrounds between rival gangs you have a serious problem that needs addressing.
Of greater concern, these gangs also have a growing membership of young Middle Eastern men. By that, you should read Islamic influence. Not the devout Osama bin Laden type. But still, a dangerous mix of cultural and religious indoctrination that goes hand-in-hand with support for violence and contempt of Australian law and customs.
You don’t need to put doof-doof music, body-ink, pimps and stand-over men together for very long before you see a dodgy cocktail of drug-trading, weapon-dealing and extortion emerge. It’s not the kind of work law-abiding citizens and firms engage in. It should be cleaned up.
Now, I’m the first to admit that I don’t have much love for Campbell Newman and his cohorts. But they are a vast improvement over the previous bunch running the joint up here. And the laws they have passed targeting criminal gangs have copped some unfair criticism.
That’s not to say that these laws are perfect or that they shouldn’t be refined. Nor does it mean that a government with absolute and total control of the numbers in parliament won’t push too far. What these laws highlight, however, more than an unease about civil liberties or the problem with criminal gangs, is that there is no review mechanism in the Sunshine State. Queensland is the only state without an upper house.
This is of more serious concern. And it should be addressed.
If these laws provide a catalyst for a renewed debate about the senate, then they will do much more than just target outlaws. They will also fix a glaring hole in Queensland’s governance mechanisms.