Wednesday, October 30, 2013
The bikies are going to get me!!!
Recently in Queensland, the state government has passed what it considers to be tough ‘anti-bikie’ laws to crack down on what are perceived as criminal bikie gangs. Apparently these are suddenly such a threat to our society that laws which undermine basic human rights are necessary to ‘protect’ us all. Here we go again. Another bunch of unnecessary and draconian laws to protect us from yet another imagined threat. Let’s not worry about real threats, such as those to the environment. Instead, let’s pass dangerous laws that may be populist in the short term, but probably won’t achieve what they aim to achieve, and open the doors for even further human rights abuses in the future.
Oh, I’m sure all Queenslanders feel so much safer now. I’m sure, like me, you have lain awake in bed at night in terror of these bikie gangs.
Governments love to target an ‘enemy’. No doubt it gives them a sense of power. They can claim to be getting tough: doing ‘something’. It is only too easy to play upon people’s fears. And, let’s face it, people seem to scare easily (except about climate change, apparently). The other easy target for governments (including this state government) is paedophiles. I am one of those bleeding heart liberals who happens to believe that even paedophiles have legal (and human) rights; which, of course, will immediately lead to accusations that I am ‘protecting’ them or am in some way defending their actions. No. I am simply pointing out that paedophiles remain human beings. We do what governments and frightened people always do when we label them ‘monsters’: we try to define them as non-human so that we can treat them in any way we wish. Need I point out that this is a slippery slope?
The crimes allegedly committed by members of bikie gangs are already crimes. They are not worse crimes (or in any way different) because they are committed by people who identify with such an organisation. I felt the same way about anti-terrorist laws. As far as I am aware, it was always illegal to set off a bomb in order to kill or injure people. Special laws and penalties are not required to deal with this. It is now, apparently, illegal for any three or more members of an illegal gang to meet together (for any purpose). Too bad if these people also happen to be friends, cousins or brothers. Three brothers, who happen also to belong to such an organisation, can no longer have Christmas lunch together. I presume it has always been illegal to meet together to conspire to commit a crime. That in itself is already, probably, a slightly silly law. Now, of course, the presumption is that whenever any three or more people who belong to such an organisation meet together it is for the purpose of carrying out or planning a crime.
Let me think. Presumably people who don’t belong to any identifiable criminal organisation have in the past, are at present, and probably will in the future meet together to plan nefarious deeds. After all, apparently 99.4% of all crimes in Queensland are committed by people who do not belong to these identified criminal organisations. Are you in a restaurant right now, reading this on your smart phone? Are their three or more people having a meal together right now in that restaurant? Oh my God, are you having a meal with two or more other people right now? What if they (or you) are planning a crime? Any group of three or more people, anywhere, anytime, might be planning a crime! Oh my God! Government, please step in and protect me! Let’s make it illegal for three or more people to meet together anywhere, anytime. That should make me safe!
This is, of course, ridiculous. Or is it? There are reasons why we protect the right of legal assembly; and reasons why governments past, present and future are suspicious of such rights. All kinds of human rights abuses can be ‘justified’ in the name of protecting us. Governments with too much power—as Queensland’s government does have right now, without an effective opposition and without an upper house of review—seem only too quick to abuse that power.
I would rather be accused of being a ‘bleeding heart liberal’—and even actually be one—than stand by and watch our rights eaten away in the name of ‘sensible’ and ‘appropriate’ measures designed to ‘protect’ us. I suspect we are more often in need of protection from governments than by them.