Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Victoria sets up strike team targetting outla -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

ELEANOR HALL: The Victorian Premier and the Federal Justice Minister today announced that a police strike team targeting outlaw motorcycle gangs will begin operating in Victoria this week.

The team will include Victorian and Australian Federal Police officers, Customs officials, as well as an investigator from the Australian Tax Office.

That strike team will also target international bikie gangs attempting to enter Australia and will work in coordination with a strike team in Queensland, and one soon to be launched in New South Wales.

In Melbourne, Rachael Brown reports.

RACHAEL BROWN: Victoria's Premier, Denis Napthine, has sent a loud and clear message to Victoria's outlaw motorcycle gangs - you're not welcome.

DENIS NAPTHINE: These gangs are involved in drugs, they're involved in violence, they're involved in extortion. They're involved in standover tactics. They put the community at risk.

RACHAEL BROWN: Federal police officers will join organised crime specialists from Victoria Police to target outlaw motorcycle gangs.

Victorian Police Commissioner, Ken Lay.

KEN LAY: In the maritime sector we've got joint operations where they're focused in that sector. But this is a dedicated resource to look at OMCGs in particular and other organised gangs operating in Victoria.

RACHAEL BROWN: A similar strike team has already been set up in Queensland and another will be launched soon in New South Wales

The Federal Justice Minister, Michael Keenan, says the coordinated approach will give police smoother access to national intelligence files.

MICHAEL KEENAN: They will link back to the national anti-gang squad based in Canberra that involves officers from the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Crime Commission, the Australian Taxation Office, Customs and Border Protection, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection and also offices from Centrelink.

RACHAEL BROWN: A focus will be on financially crippling outlaw bikie gangs, which the Government says are often funded by criminal activity.

The Victorian Premier, Denis Napthine again.

DENIS NAPTHINE: Following the money, in a lot of these criminal gangs, these drug related gangs, is really important. And having the ATO involved with the Federal Police and the Vic Pol, will be a really significant component.

RACHAEL BROWN: The Federal and State Governments are keen to sever clubs' international links to stop what's known in the bikie world as "patching over".

Assistant Police Commissioner, Steve Fontana, says he's concerned clubs like Hells Angels and the Rebels are establishing bases in Southeast Asia.

STEVE FONTANA: There is clear evidence of communication, clear evidence of transfer of information between these gangs and even transfer of personnel. And these international links need to be thoroughly examined and, where possible, dealt with.

RACHAEL BROWN: The strike team announcement comes a day after Victorian police served the Hells Angels' Nomads chapter clubhouse in Thomastown with an anti-fortification notice.

The chapter has a month to tear down much of the property, but it's expected to fight the notice in court.

In Queensland, 200 gang members and their associates have already been charged since bills were passed last week effectively classifying 26 bikie gangs as criminal organisations.

JOHN SUTA: The new laws won't stamp out illegal activities and in fact will make lawful activities, such as meeting at a clubhouse, a criminal offence.

RACHAEL BROWN: Solicitor, John Suta, represents the Tramps motorcycle club in Wangaratta, the smallest club in Victoria.

JOHN SUTA: It's guilt by association. I oppose laws that make criminals out of a whole class of people. The focus should be on what illegal acts individuals or a group of individuals are undertaking, not what shirt or patch or jacket they're wearing.

RACHAEL BROWN: Mr Suta says motorcycle clubs aren't as dangerous as the public are being led to believe.

He says the strike force's persual of entire clubs - instead of just individuals - will backfire.

JOHN SUTA: Predictably, gang activity will change, become displaced and more submerged and less able to be accessed by law enforcement. Spend the money on targeting individuals who commit crime, just like any element of society.

RACHAEL BROWN: You said yourself that motorcycle gangs can be very secretive. How could police instead work themselves into the information networks of these gangs?

JOHN SUTA: By using the surveillance and intelligence that's openly available to them in targeting criminal elements within all elements of society

RACHAEL BROWN: Mr Suta says the Tramps are off on their annual week-long ride on Saturday, but they'll be targeted - unfairly he says - more than ever.

JOHN SUTA: They'll no doubt be aiming to ride 3,000 or 4,000 kilometres during that week. That's what they do. They ride their motorcycles, they love their motorcycles. And they love their code of mateship. But regretfully they will be wearing their colours and they'll stand out like nobody's business.

ELEANOR HALL: That's John Suta, who represents a Victorian motorcycle club, ending that report by Rachael Brown.