Tasmanian Times

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche


The revealing facts on bikie laws and crime in Queensland

Queensland’s Liberal National government has made law and order – particularly its anti-bikie laws – a key part of its re-election pitch.

The government recently claimed that “Criminal Gang laws (are) keeping Queenslanders safer” and that they have driven a general decrease in crime.

Yet when you compare those claims against Queensland’s crime statistics, something soon becomes clear: the spin and the statistics tell two different stories.

Sunshine State’s falling crime rate

An examination of the overall crime rate in Queensland indicates that it has been steadily reducing for the past 12 years. Apart for an aberration in 2011/12, this trend has been consistent.

The overall crime rate for Queensland.
Queensland Police Service, CC BY

A reduction in general offences such as robbery, break and enters, and stolen vehicles was also attributed to the introduction of the Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment (VLAD) laws, aimed at criminal bikie gangs.

However, comparison of the levels of reported property crime in Queensland year-to-year clearly show that property crime was already substantially reducing in 2013 – before the VLAD laws came into effect.

Year-to-year comparison of Queensland property crime sourced from Queensland Police crime data.
Terry Goldsworthy, CC BY

Previous analysis of government data shows that bikies had little involvement in the type of offences being put forward by the government. As I’ve explained before, Queensland Police data indicates that outlaw motorcycle gang members commit only about 0.6% of overall crime.

Table showing comparison of reported offences and outlaw motorcycle gang (OMCG) member arrests for January to May 2013 for the South East Region of Queensland.

Winning the media war

Senior Queensland police have also made similar claims linking the bikie crackdown with falling crime rates in the state.

As part of the bikie war, the police have worked hard to win the media war, wooing and winning over most of the mainstream media, in particular the print sector. This is in alignment with objectives set out by the bikie Strategic Monitoring Team to reduce bad news stories – and their efforts have paid off.

Extract from Strategic Monitoring Team report obtained under Right to Information, Queensland Government.
Terry Goldsworthy, CC BY

Critically, the bikie crackdown has been strongly backed by The Courier-Mail, Queensland’s only major state-wide daily newspaper, as this recent editorial shows:

The Courier-Mail has been unashamedly supportive of the crackdown on outlaw bikie gangs, reflecting genuine fear among Queenslanders who were terrorised by these thugs acting like they ran the state.

Instead of much-needed investigative journalism on law and order, there has been far too much of what could best be described as regurgitative journalism. Too often, the government line on “cutting crime” is repeated without meaningful analysis or independent opinion being sought.

However, some media outlets have remained independent and on occasion have taken the propaganda to task.

An analysis of media reports on the bikie war by The Courier-Mail and its weekend News Corp stablemate The Sunday Mail over a two-month period showed that 60% of stories had a police viewpoint, while only 20% had independent input.

Analysis of Courier Mail and Sunday Mail bikie war reports over a two-month period.
Terry Goldsworthy, CC BY

Queensland’s media has been flooded with operational police stories, with seemingly every bikie arrest the subject of a specific media release. In the same period, other offenders arrested for similar offences often didn’t rate a mention.

In a government media statement released the day before the election was called, Queenslanders were told that since the anti-gang laws were introduced, more than 1700 “criminal gang participants” had been arrested.

Yet Right to Information data from the police showed that there were only 900 gang members in Queensland in 2013. No information was provided to the media as to exactly how many of the 1700 “gang participants” were actual criminal gang members. Perhaps no-one bothered to ask.

Politicisation of the police

In July 2014, Queensland Police Commissioner Ian Stewart went public claiming a crime reduction of at least 10% before the official crime data was settled. As The Courier-Mail reported at the time:

Crime in Queensland dropped at least 10% in the past financial year, according to Police Commissioner Ian Stewart, who attributed the fall to sweeping reforms and a crackdown on bikies. The state’s top cop says he can’t release official figures yet but declared he expected to exceed his target of a 10% decrease in crime. “I don’t want to crow about it but when I started last year I said I was hopeful we would get a 10% reduction in crime, that is the reported crime … I think we’re going to exceed that and quite honestly that is a real hallmark and milestone figure.

The same day, Queensland Premier Campbell Newman used the media story to justify his government’s law-and-order efforts when giving evidence to a parliamentary estimates committee.

Stewart was rightly criticised for making that claim. Less than a fortnight later, the data showed that the overall crime rate had decreased by only 2.1% and not “at least 10%”, leading to calls for an independent body to interpret and publish an overall view of crime statistics.

Perhaps worst for the government was the fact that in an attempt to claim the much higher decrease they had discarded an entire crime category, “other crime”, as not being crime important to “mum and dads”. This category contained domestic violence crime, which had increased some 15%.

Within days of this being identified in the media, the government suddenly announced an inquiry into domestic violence in Queensland.

Claims by police that they could not have achieved the overall crime results they have without the bikie legislation are unsustainable.

The separation of powers doctrine would dictate that comments with political connotations, such as the ones we have seen from senior police, should not have been made. It was the government’s failure to observe these principles in its unfounded criticism of the judiciary that led to a public backlash and an apology from Newman in July 2014.

Tellingly, despite the High Court decision in November 2014 clearing the way, not one other Australian jurisdiction has moved to implement similar bikie laws to Queensland, despite having ample time to prepare and do so.

In reality, other jurisdictions appear to see the VLAD laws for the distraction that they are and to realise that the laws remain untested despite government claims to the contrary.

The opposition’s plan – what plan?

If the Liberal National government’s VLAD laws are unpalatable, the alternative proposed by Labor is hardly more enticing.

Labor has mooted a return to utilising their Criminal Organisation laws – laws that also have an association aspect.

Introduced in 2009, the “elite” anti-bikie squad, Taskforce Hydra, failed to make a single successful application in the four years following. The only application sought was against the Gold Coast Chapter of the Finks and this action was discontinued in the Supreme Court in 2014.

Labor has been all over the place in its stance on bikies and crime.

The opposition voted with the Liberal National Party to pass the laws in October 2013, even while criticising the government’s rushed approach. Labor has since complained that the laws had “gone too far, affecting innocent Queenslanders whose only crime is to ride a motorcycle”.

Labor is now promising to “repeal, review and replace” the VLAD laws, with little detail on what would replace them.

As a former Gold Coast police detective with 28 years’ experience, I’ve investigated my fair share of bikies in the past – and as I’ve said many times, being a critic of poor policy does not make me an apologist for criminals in the bikies’ midst.

It’s just a pity that we’ve seen this area of law-and-order policy become so politicised from all sides, at the expense of giving more credit for falling crime rates where it’s due.

Who deserves more credit for a safer Queensland?

The current Queensland crime rate is more likely to be the product of a long-term, declining trend, combined with the Newman government employing an extra 800 police.

Those are certainly more likely to be significant factors than laws that have only been used minimally, on a single group, which commits a very small amount of crime.

The issues of better resourcing, better crime management and an actual commitment by senior police to deal with criminal groups are the real reasons for recent successes.

The government’s own bikie Strategic Monitoring Team has recognised this. Last year, the former army officer heading the team told the ABC that significant decreases in Gold Coast crime could “be attributed to more police available to carry out operations on the Gold Coast and the targeted nature of the enforcement activity”.

Politicians of all stripes will always try to take credit for falling crime rates. But the media and voters need to look beyond the official spin and give credit where it’s really due for the long-term decline in Queensland crime: in particular, to the many unheralded police officers doing their jobs.

Read more of The Conversation’s Queensland election 2015 coverage.

The Conversation This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

9MSN: Bikies snatch focus in Qld election Debate over policy is being overshadowed in the final days of Queensland’s election campaign following Premier Campbell Newman’s repeated claims of a link between Labor, unions and bikie gangs. Mr Newman has defended his allegations that ALP rivals were backed by unions linked to criminal motorcycle gangs, saying it’s a hot topic with Queenslanders. The debate has taken centre stage over the final weekend of the election campaign ahead of Saturday’s poll. On Sunday, Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk again called for Mr Newman to show some evidence to support his claims and stated she had “zero tolerance” when it came to criminal organisations.

Guardian: Bikies donate money to LNP to rubbish Newman claims

Guardian: LNP losing out in regional areas

Psephologist Dr Kevin Bonham’s latest analysis (Jan 15) here

MEANWHILE in elections elsewhere …

Paul Mason, Guardian: Greece shows what can happen when the young revolt against corrupt elites

Author Credits: [show_post_categories parent="no" parentcategory="writers" show = "category" hyperlink="yes"]


  1. TP

    January 27, 2015 at 9:22 pm

    Interesting interplay between two bloggers on one of the Australian’s blogs, the Guvnor purporting to be a senior Qld policeman.
    Interesting reading;

    “The Guvnor
    Tue 27 Jan 15 (02:38pm)

    I know your illustrious Dr from the private Bond University well. The axe he grinds throws many sparks. He is an ex police officer very well known up here for having a fair bit to say about the system. Funnily enough he, as a once very active Gold Coast detective, would know that these laws work. It’s just not in his interests to say that these days.

    He also knows that the system on which his stats is based regarding the recording of CMG members was flawed at the time and has only been rectified recently with a significant government funding outlay with regard to one of our IT systems. The recording of CMG / OMCG involvement up until that was very ad hoc and associates and related offences were vitually never recorded. Sad but true.

    What I can say is I know personally you are wrong and that is not your fault as you do not sit where I do. So let’s drop it at that. I do not wish to get into a to and fro on this as I have all the information and you don’t. Enjoy your life wherever you are and remember those that do things to make sure you can live it without fear.”

  2. Pete Godfrey

    January 26, 2015 at 12:43 pm

    I hope that no one in Queensland is fooled by the oldest political trick in the book.
    It has been used so often that no one should be taken in.
    The trick is ” who will best protect you from these viscious ( insert, criminals, outlwas, greenies etc).
    And along comes a tough on crime premier who will make us all feel safe, just like a wonderful protective father figure.
    Surely the voters have a right to be treated as if they have more than two brain cells to rub together.
    Lets see what are the most memorable cases of this.
    Weapons of Mass Deception.
    Children Overboard
    Bird Flu
    The Mafia
    The Russians
    The Chinese
    of course any imagined enemy will do.
    People seem to forget fast how easily they were duped by these carpetbaggers.

  3. Basil Fitch

    January 25, 2015 at 6:32 pm

    Libs are notorious for ‘dirty politics’, at anytime, but when Poll results start showing the true feelings of the Electorate they become more desperate.

    The ‘scare campaigns’ are always their, ‘go to’ option, as Ms Palaszczuk (Labor leader) reiterates, if there is any proof take it to the authorities asap. What can be simpler than that?

    Selling peoples assets, is a once off crazy idea, never to be seen again (even on a 100 yr lease – gotta be kidding!), then there is the thought in the voting public’s mind, who buys these assets?

    Naturally would need to be wealthy countries, not many Australians are keen on say China owning more of our quality assets, including mining and 6th or 7th generation farm operations, than they already do.


  4. phill Parsons

    January 25, 2015 at 11:22 am

    The importance of this election to Australians is it’s measurement of an approach to government.

    Newman’s regime of budget cuts has a similarity to that of Abbott’s and can be seen as a defacto measurement of the popularity of a government elected with a huge majority that then quickly expends that capital.

    Labor may not win in QLD but there will be an inference taken on the future of the Abbott government allowing that a week is a long time in politics.

    The late entry of the bikie issue will be a lesson taken on board in Canberra.

    Following this election will be an address to the National Press Club on the 2nd of February where Abbott will attempt to reset the pre-Christmas reset of the severity of the government’s floating agenda.

Leave a Reply

To Top