This week the Sydney Morning Herald described Queensland’s Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment Act as “backfiring.” The act, which denies civil liberties in the Australian state to members of 26 named motorcycle clubs was enacted last year to curb what politicians there described as “criminal networks.”
Earlier this month, Queensland Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie (above) claimed the VLAD law was responsible for “the sharpest decline in crime reduction across the state in recorded history.” Bleijie claimed that crime is down between 20 percent and 50 percent since the laws were introduced. The journalistic consensus in Australia is that Bleijie is lying.
In an interview with ABC Radio, Queensland Police Minister Jack Dempsey attributed a 54 per cent reduction in robberies to the new laws. But in a review of publically available data the Brisbane Times found that overall crime had been reduced slightly, by about 3.5 percent, when comparing the month the new law went into effect and last month.
A police spokesman replied “Whilst a generalized figure cannot be given we provide the following regarding various crime classes for the state; robbery – down by 23 per cent, unlawful entry of dwellings – down by 22 per cent, assault – down by 5 per cent, unlawful use of motor vehicles – down by 23 per cent and offences against property – down by 14 per cent.”
A Bond University criminologist named Terry Goldsworthy disagreed. He told the Times the statement was an example of how statistics “can be used to say whatever you want them to.”
“I am curious about how they draw this massive leap of faith that bikies are responsible for armed robberies, break and enters and things like that,” Goldsworthy told the Times. “My experience as a police officer for 28 years was that they really seldom committed break and enters and seldom committed armed robberies. Some of the data that we have managed to obtain from the Queensland Police themselves – on the Gold Coast over a five month period of 2012-13 – they committed about two break and enters. So to me, these crimes that they are trying to link to those bikie groups are just not substantial crimes that they commit. I don’t see any relevance in claiming that the bikie laws have decreased break and enters.”
Goldsworthy told the Morning Herald that crimes committed by bikers are “disorganized, stupid crime” comprising mostly low-level drug, assault and driving offences. “The real problem police have,” Goldsworthy said, “is that they’re not charging anyone for (being involved in) criminal enterprises within the gangs, which would indicate that bikies operate as individuals, and not as gangs with a common criminal purpose.”
The Times has taken to calling Bleijie “Boy Blunder” and the High Court of Australia will hear a challenge to the new law next September. Zeke Bentley, one of the lawyers who will argue against the anti-biker laws, recently called them “the most extraordinary and embarrassing set of laws that I’m aware of in Australia’s history.”