The incoming human rights commissioner, Tim Wilson, has called for Queensland’s anti-bikie legislation to be repealed, arguing “Bikies have just as much right to freely associate as other Australians”.
The statements, posted on his blog before he takes up his controversial appointment, puts him at odds with the Queensland Liberal government and, by association, the federal Liberal government which appointed
him. These laws are a demonstration of the worse consequences of what happens when people are treated as groups under the law, and not as individuals
Mr Wilson says the Queensland anti-bike laws are “inconsistent with an individual’s right to freely associate and should be repealed” in a blog post on Wednesday.
“These laws are a demonstration of the worse consequences of what happens when people are treated as groups under the law, and not as individuals”.
The laws adopted by the Queensland Liberal government under Premier Campbell Newman in October, formally the Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment Act 2013,
name 26 bikie gangs as criminal associations and impose mandatory six-month prison sentences for participants found to be knowingly associating together in a public place.
“The imprisonment of people for free association that are not otherwise engaged in criminal activity is deeply, deeply disturbing. The fact that other states have and continue to look at replicating these laws is equally disturbing”, Mr Wilson writes.
The comments extend a campaign dating from Mr Wilson’s days as a director of the Institute of Public Affairs, a post he resigned after being appointed to the Human Rights Commission by federal Attorney-General George Brandis in December. Mr Wilson also resigned from the Liberal Party after his appointment.
Speaking on ABC-TV’s The Drum in October, he said the Queensland laws were “overturning a whole principle of liberal democracy” and he was “extremely disappointed the Newman government has gone down this path. “I don’t think it will deliver anything for Queensland and I think it will have very serious repercussions”.
Mr Wilson reiterated that concern in a blog post the day after his appointment was announced. “If bikies commit crimes the police should investigate and prosecute criminals.
But from a human rights perspective it is entirely unjust that freedom of association should be squashed to make the job of the police easier to investigate.
“Rather than empowering police to prevent an already comprehensive list of crimes, these laws have created a host of new crimes that could easily be used to punish law-abiding citizens
in the wrong place at the wrong time,” he wrote.
Mr Wilson’s appointment as a human rights commissioner was controversial because the Institute of Public Affairs had previously called for the abolition of the commission.
Mr Brandis said Mr Wilson would “help restore balance to the Australian Human Rights Commission” which under Labor had become “increasingly narrow and selective in its view of human rights”.