Tuesday, 23 August 2011

The events unfolding in

Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere have been making headlines for some time now. I also know there are local people who are tired of it and bored with it. It has reached the point where some of them no longer bother to watch the news or read a newspaper. They feel the news has nothing to do with them any more.
It also means they are missing out on local news. They have given up trying to persuade our state government we do not need to spend money on some of the more outrageous projects. They know that, despite protests and appeals, things they do not want to happen will happen. There is an air of weary resignation about many people, a "we cannot do anything about it" attitude. And yes, even a large scale protest would make little difference to the present government. It has a fixed term. There is no chance of getting it ousted in the short term.
The government is also trying to bring in measures it believes will be popular and which they fondly believe will actually win them yet another term in office. One of these is popularly referred to as "the bikie legislation".
This is legislation designed to outlaw motorcycle gangs like the Hell's Angels, the Finks, the Rebels and other groups which are seen as "criminal" organisations. The government has already tried to write this once - and failed. The New South Wales government has tried to write similar legislation - and failed. There have been good reasons why the High Court upheld the appeals.
Now our government wants to try again. It wants to bring in legislation similar to that in Hong Kong - where it is an offence to belong to a group associated with a Triad. It wants to "outlaw" motorcycle gangs. It wants to make it an offence for anyone to belong to such a group.
I have no time at all for the criminal element in such groups but I do wonder at the wisdom of endeavouring to outlaw them. It may well send criminal activities further underground while denying some people a support network. It is not a support network I would choose but I have seen a similar support network at work.
While I was at university I lived in a hall of residence. The senior administrator there lost her husband in a road accident. It was an appalling tragedy. I went to the funeral - and discovered myself surrounded by "bikies". There must have been well over one hundred of them. Her husband was a member of one of these clubs. These men turned up to support his wife. They were polite and courteous. They formed a motorcade which obeyed all the road rules.
Over the next months they saw to it that she had all the physical assistance she needed around the house. The lawn was cut, gutters were repaired and other essential jobs were done. They kept her husband's repair business open until she could sell it. They asked for nothing in return. It was all done "for a mate".
I do not know how often that sort of thing happens. I do know there is annual "Toy Run" here when the bikies collect toys for disadvantaged children and there have occasionally been stories of the way they have given assistance elsewhere.
Yes, there is enmity between gangs. Yes, there is a criminal element and there is occasional violence. Yes, some of them deal in drugs. Those involved will go on doing those things. They will be less visible than before.
And this will be the thin end of the wedge. If the government succeeds it is a small step towards the sort of repression seen in places like Libya. Do we want that?
Should we just say, "Have your gangs but we will prosecute law breakers"?


JO said...

When does a group of friends become a gang?

In America there is an organisation of bikers that stand up for sexually abused children. They will go to Court with them, stand up with them - the unspoken message is 'you mess with kids and you mess with us.' Then they give the kids just the best time.

Crazy to judge anyone by the bike they ride, the clothes they wear, or simply for hanging around with friends.

catdownunder said...

It is an interesting question isn't it? Gang seems to equal criminality in the mind of the government.

Talei said...

Interesting. I'd not heard of this, am surprised really. Will they actually pass this law?

If there is a criminal element that is a worry but more disturbing is freedom of expression for groups. If it were other groups of people or interests, am sure there would be an uproar.

catdownunder said...

They tried once and an appeal to the High Court was upheld. Now they seem to think they can re-write the legislation in order to take that into account. I do not think it will stop criminal activities and I see it as the thin end of the wedge which could be used to prevent other activities.