Control bill pushed to target Aboriginal peoples and to erode civil liberties
Australia-wide Aboriginal organisations, communities and rights advocates are more than just apprehensive of the consolidated push by State and Territory governments for the introduction of Criminal Association Control Bills better known as anti-association laws – in Western Australia, the Criminal Organisation Bill 2012 appears that it will be passed and within days.
Both the Liberal/Nationals coalition government and the Labor opposition will support it with only the Greens Giz Watson having called for a parliamentary inquiry into the Bill - a call which has been rejected.
The Bill has been sold by government and the police as an opportunity to crack down on what they describe as the criminal and anti-social behaviours of bikie organisations and hence the anti-association laws have been heralded by news media and politicians as anti-bikie laws, however Aboriginal human rights lawyers and community leaders believe the bill is intended to target WA’s Aboriginal folk.
On Monday April 30 a press conference was held at Perth’s Ambassador Hotel coordinated by the United Motorcycle Council of Western Australia. Prior to the conference there was a two hour consultation held for representatives of major not-for-profit organisations and affected groups and communities and a number of civil libertarians – present were powerful unions such as the MUA, the CFMEU, the AMWU and religious groups, and Aboriginal community Elders such as Mingli Wanjurri McGlade, representatives from Nyoongar Tent Embassy such as Vanessa and Len Culbong and well known Nyoongar activist and law student Marianne Mackay and Dumbartung Aboriginal Corporation’s CEO Robert Eggington and Iva Hayward-Jackson and outgoing Aboriginal parliamentarian for the Kimberley, Carol Martin.
Ms Mackay said she is disturbed by WA police commissioner Karl O’Callaghan’s push for the legislation and by his ‘timely opinion pieces’ in West Australian newspapers effectively supporting the Attorney-General’s proposed legislation. “The police commissioner is constantly suggesting that the legislation targets the anti-social behaviour of certain bikie groups. It is wrong that he can discriminate like this. It is wrong that he thinks he can punish the many for the perceived actions of the few.”
“The Attorney-General, Christian Porter, talks of the legislation as if it is about bikies but there is no mention in the proposed Bill of bikies.”
“It is my personal belief that the Bill is targeted at all minority groups although they are promoting it against bikies. Mr Porter is a lawyer and he knows full well he is breaching constitutional law and he understands what is meant by separation of powers... They need to remember they are part of the people’s parliament and that they need to listen to the people. They need to stop targeting minority groups,” said Ms Mackay.
“They need to get off their butts and be the government that the people need and not the government they want to be.”
During the evening, Nyoongar and other Aboriginal advocates commented that such a Bill would ensure that for instance Nyoongar Tent Embassy would indeed be unlawful, and effectively prohibited, that Aboriginal families and communities would be torn apart with disassociation demands because of perceived anti-social behaviour and even because of the right to dissent, to protest.
It was noted that recently Forest Rescue Australia activists protesting logging of the south west’s Warrup forest in order to save the last intact numbat colony had bail conditions imposed upon them by Manjimup Court demanding the protestors not associate – this included two protestors who were in a de facto relationship.
Mr Eggington said, “We are here tonight as part of Nyoongar community, representing Dumbartung against the laws that are being introduced… We are also concerned about laws already in place such as the ‘three strikes you are out law’ that states if you put your hand on a public officer you get 12 months mandatory incarceration.”
“Our Aboriginal youth are 70% of juvenile detention and our men 40% of adult prisons, however we are less than 3% of the overall population. So of course we are concerned about these new laws. We know from the very first moment a non-Aboriginal person lays eyes on a black man the very first concept that they have is this person is a criminal,” said Mr Eggington.
Dumbartung’s Iva Hayward-Jackson said that the “heart of Nyoongar culture may be affected by the introduction of the Bill. He said cultural events, including funerals would be degraded by people prohibited from attending. “(The Barnett government) is activating more laws for more control, more domination, and more dispossession of Nyoongar people…”
Guest speaker at the meeting prior the press conference was barrister Shash Nigam from the Australian Lawyers Alliance, and who oppose the proposed legislation. “It is very dangerous. Any legislation of this type that attacks the principles of natural justice and procedural fairness must be struck down.”
“The Australian Lawyers Alliance takes issue with the WA Attorney-General’s pitch that such legislation will assist in reducing crime, “ said Mr Nigam. “This is highly unlikely and if anything just distracts from the real issue of anti-social behaviour by people from all walks of life… and that require proper procedures and prosecution to ensure the right people are brought to justice before the law.”
WA president of the Australian Lawyers Alliance Tom Percy QC said, “There are enough laws and enforcement bodies already in existence with ample powers to deal with any problem that motorcycle organisations are perceived to present.”
At most only 0.3% of criminal activity in WA can be attributed to people associated with bikie organisations, and whose membership apparently number only thereabouts 300 members. The 160 pages of the Criminal Organisation Control 2012 Bill tabled to state parliament does not refer to bikie organisations, not once.
Mr Percy said the problem with the proposed legislation is that it seeks to deal with allegations in the absence of evidence, without a proper hearing, and without any requirement for a judge to provide reasons for decisions and without any right to an appeal.
“This is a wholly unjust and unconstitutional approach, which breaches most of the accepted tenets of a civilised justice system,” said Mr Percy.
“The SA and NSW legislation was struck down in the High Court for these reasons. The WA legislation faces the same fate.”
The Reverend Paul Christie said, “I remember swearing an oath of allegiance back in 1973 when I joined the Australian Army. It was to serve Queen and country, to protect her citizens, and to uphold the constitution. I don’t remember anything about ‘And let the constitution and our civil rights be eroded and changed without the consent of ordinary people to whom it is designed to protect.’"
UNIONISTS, church figures, Aboriginal tent embassy activists and forest campaigners have joined with biker groups to denounce Western Australia's proposed anti-association laws.
Under the Barnett government's Criminal Organisation Control Bill, groups involved in criminal activity or that "pose a risk to the public safety and order" would be declared to be criminal organisations.
A diverse group of organisations has launched a campaign against Western Australia's proposed anti-association laws. The State Government says its Criminal Organisation Control Bill targets groups of people who break the law - including bikie gangs - but union leaders, students and environmentalists say it could restrict basic freedoms.
Civil Liberties Council of WA president Peter Weygers said a parliamentary inquiry would give opponents time to educate the rest of the community about the "draconian, hateful laws."
“There is no way to improve the anti-association laws currently before parliament, they must be rejected outright,” said Socialist Alliance WA co-convenor Alex Bainbridge.
Perth lawyer Tom Percy QC was one of 500 people who attended a rally against the proposal yesterday, saying it would erode basic civil liberties.
Government, Labor and Nationals MPs last night opposed a motion from Greens MP Giz Watson to have the Criminal Organisation Control Bill referred to the standing committee on legislation, defeating it 27 votes to three.
"Similar legislation in South Australia and New South Wales went to the High Court and was challenged and I thought the Parliament should be thorough in an investigation and to do that it should go to the standing committee because they provide that sort of detailed scrutiny," she said.
"I have never ever seen the likes of what we saw at Mattagarup, of the police acting in these ways, not in all my life, and I have lived racism, known it, experienced. I could not believe it, it will stay with me till I die," said Mr Pell.
1. It is clearly evident that people come out of prisons worse than that what they went in.
2. It is clearly evident that people come out of immigration detention worse than they went in.
3. It is clearly evident Aboriginal peoples have negative stereotypes of police custodial predicaments reinforced by an experience within a police custodial predicament.
4. Tragically, it appears that many who are released from prison custodial and immigration custodial experiences cannot overwhelm levels of trauma which have been induced or developed. It appears that there may not be recovery for many traumas - multiple traumas, acute and chronic.
MEDIA RELEASE UMCWA 2.5.2012
UPPER HOUSE MPs UNQUESTIONING OVER GOVERNMENT SPIN AND EROSION OF
Activist organisations last night watched with horror, the blind, unquestioning bipartisan support for the intrinsically flawed Criminal Organisations Control Bill 2011.
MPs showed contempt for the proposed legislation's effect on disadvantaged families, and the Bill's proposed loose definitions of 'organisations, ' and brazenly discussed the inclusion of minors in anti-association measures.
Peter Godfree, United Motorcycle Council WA spokesperson said, "if passed, this law will have devastating consequences not just on motorcycle clubs, but on any group of more than three people - which, according to a Government response in last night's debate, constitutes an organisation."
"We felt compelled to observe the work that the members of the Legislative Council were doing on the Bill."
Mr Godfree said a number of activist organisation representatives attended to understand and participate in the process.
"All representatives expressed shock and disappointment at what they saw last night," he said.
Despite Greens MP Giz Watson calling for an inquiry into the Bill by a Parliamentary Legislative Committee, the responsible option of investigating the future impact of the Bill on children and families was dismissed.
MPs also discussed the under-use of the already-funded Parliamentary Legislative Committee.
"Several of the MPs mentioned the overwhelming number of emails and phone calls they have received from Western Australians, concerned about the the operation and effects of the legislation."
"However, beyond acknowledging the widespread community opposition, they did little to actually address the community's concerns," said Mr Godfree.
"Both sides of Parliament reaffirmed their commitment to passing a piece of legislation proven not to work in reducing organized crime."
"It introduces an unprecedented level of control mechanisms that the Government can use on any organisation or individual in WA, that falls under this legislation."
At a meeting on Monday night, church, community and advocacy groups, as well as an alliance of blue collar unions, decried the Bill as undemocratic and committed to opposing the Draconian legislation.
The UMCWA urges the members of the Upper House to heed the voices of their constituents, and afford this Bill the full scrutiny that the WA public deserves, by referring it to an Upper House Committee.
UMCWA has committed to fighting all the way to the High Court, any anti-association law that attacks basic Australian rights and freedoms.
Debate on the Bill continues.
STATEMENT by Reverend Paul Christie
I remember swearing an oath of allegiance back in 1973 when I joined the Australian Army. It was to serve Queen and country, to protect her citizens, and to uphold the constitution. I don’t remember anything about ‘And let the constitution and our civil rights be eroded and changed without the consent of ordinary people to whom it is designed to protect.’ My name is Paul Christie. I’m a Christian bloke, a member Balaam’s Ass Motorcycle Chaplaincy Australia and volunteer with Prison Fellowship Western Australia. Most of my friends just call me ‘Doc’. I am authorised to visit prisons in Western Australia by the Department of Correction and am very grateful for their assistance and understanding. I am also a volunteer within the prison system in Indonesia along with their local churches and have just returned home after meeting churches and negotiating with Bali’s Prison authorities to have wider access to their prisons within the region. I have been asked about these laws by several police in Indonesia. They can’t understand how our local authorities can pass such a bill. My primary role is to support Motorcyclists and associates in prison and to find churches for those wishing visits whilst in prison, or assistance when they are released. We aim to help prisoners break the cycle which sees them reoffending. As members of Balaam’s Ass Motorcyle Chaplaincy in W.A., we actively support the rights and welfare of bikers and their families in and out of prison. We already ring alarm bells with police due to our association with Motor Cycle Clubs. The police are aware of our Christian purpose, but still feel uneasy with it. Because of our work we are in constant contact with prisoners and ex-prisoners. Our mission is to reduce repeat-offending by providing support and counselling both in prison and outside of prison, and that could be severely curtailed by the proposed anti-association measures. What concerns me is that there are already state and federal laws a plenty to deal with criminal activity, why is this bill so necessary, this just seems
STATEMENT by The Human Rights Alliance
"It is an immoral law, utter impropriety. This is a law intended to discriminate as do mandatory sentencing and curfew laws. To hoodwink people the government are trying to scaremonger citizenry that this is an "anti-bikie" law, however which is still anti-association."
"This law intends to create a star chamber, individuals with extraordinary power and end of the day the star chamber will be spoon fed information as evidence from the police. The legislation will create a secondary criminal justice system, without effective veto or appeal, that will become a higher body than the criminal justice system. Police through this new legislation will be able to spoon feed decisions by the arbiter - incredible discretion to this star chamber criminal justice system to put away anybody and firstly by making the right of association a crime. This will especially hurt Aboriginal youths, whom are a major police target."
"Police Commissioner O’Callaghan seems to come out with these newspaper articles whenever they are trying to push this type of legislation, it is pathetic. We’ve seen pieces by him in the Western Australian newspaper that are a shocker. He’s basically trying to put more kids away in jail for longer sentences."
"Our prisons have doubled in the last twenty years; they are going to double again by 2020 Australia wide. Western Australia’s record is the worst in the country in terms of the rates of incarceration, and prisons have never helped anyone, they have never slowed or reduced the crime rate. They are places where you pick up the wrong skills and tools to become better at criminality and they are not places of rehabilitation or to help people. They are harsh places. If you want to know the heart and mind of a nation, of its parliamentarians and legislators then day and night look into its prisons."
"The 160 pages tabled in pursuit of the Criminal Association Bill 2012 is blighted by simple minds, blunt narrow mindedness, its origin in closed-knit circles, dissociative of the poorest and neediest, ridden with prejudice and discrimination, and all about controls from the top of end of town over the rest of society. The whole document is repetitious with ugly control and minimal balances and checks."
"We need this legislation to be smashed before the full bench of the High Court as against the contemporary intentions of the rule of law, and hence as unlawful!"
"The police commissioner says the legislation will only be another tool in their toolbox to deal with criminality, we say they have more than enough tools in that toolbox, maybe far too many."
A series of brief YouTube and video clips
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights