The Commission has significant concerns about the effects of the three Bills passed by Queensland parliament this week to curtail criminal activity among bikie gangs throughout the state. – The Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment Bill, The Tattoo Parlours Bill and The Criminal Law (Criminal Laws Disruption) Amendment Bill.
“We have concerns that the internationally agreed freedoms and rights of specific groups of people in Queensland may be breached by the effect of these laws,” said Commission President, Professor Gillian Triggs. “Indeed, we have concerns that the very manner in which the Bills were passed - rushed through without any form of public consultation – carries with it serious human rights ramifications, as does the fact that they target people on the basis of who they associate with, rather than for something they have done.”
Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Australia is a signatory, states that “Every citizen shall have the right and the opportunity … to take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representatives … to have access, on general terms of equality, to public service in his country.”
“The fact that the laws were rushed through without being subjected to the parliamentary committee process, without affording public consultation or scrutiny, would very likely not satisfy the requirements of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” Professor Triggs said.
Additionally, the Commission is concerned that people deemed by the legislation to be ‘vicious lawless associates’ will now be automatically subject to mandatory extra punishment above what would apply for the declared offence, including an additional 15 to 25 years imprisonment, and be subject to the potential waiving of bail and parole and a reversal of the onus of proof.
“The provision which we think raises the greatest concern from a human rights point of view is that each person is entitled to be treated equally with others before a court of law” said Professor Triggs. “Here we have an attempt to specifically identify a class of person - members of a criminal motorcycle gang - and to require that there be mandatory sentences in relation to them.”
“As a democratic and fair society, freedom of association, freedom of expression and our right to be treated equally before the law in accordance with the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights should be fundamentals under which we operate.”
Professor Triggs said that the passing of any laws, especially those creating wide reaching or sweeping powers, should be accompanied by a statement of Human Rights compatibility, as they are at the federal level, and also allow for their debate and scrutiny beforehand.