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Sunday, July 25, 2021

Liberals renew push for anti-consorting laws after bikie death

ACT Shadow Attorney-General Jeremy Hanson said the ACT Labor Government is to blame for bikie violence in the city, following the death of Canberra Comancheros leader Pitasoni Ulavalu over the weekend.

ACT Labor has previously voted against anti-consorting laws, which make it an offence to affiliate with habitual criminals in public, private or online.

Mr Hanson said anti-consorting laws would decrease gang-related crime, including the violent death of Mr Ulavalu, which is believed to be bikie-related, in Kokomo’s nightclub in the early hours of Sunday morning, 19 July.

“In many ways this would have been preventable if the government had introduced adequate consorting laws way back when New South Wales did,” he said.

“There is no doubt that many of the incidents, and we are waiting to find out the details about this one, but certainly over the last 10 years, the ACT Government can take a lot of the blame for what we have seen in terms of the violence across our city.

“I am just thankful that we haven’t seen the death or serious injury of an innocent Canberran who has been caught up in the crossfire.”

Mr Hanson had tabled anti-consorting legislation in February last year, which was voted against by both the ACT Greens and Labor.

The Canberra Liberals claims there has been a fourfold increase in bikie gangs in Canberra in the past decade.

However, University of Canberra Assistant Professor in Law, Dr Bruce Baer Arnold, said anti-consorting laws had proven to be ineffective in other jurisdictions.

“We know this legislation doesn’t work. It is a blunt instrument and will probably be misused,” he said.

“It won’t be particularly effective, but it makes for a nice media release.

“It sounds nice and people will look at the wrapper and the nice ribbon, but they won’t actually do some hard thinking about if this is going to minimise crime.”

Dr Baer Arnold said in many cases, anti-consorting laws see honest interactions targeted, in what is a waste of police resources and time.

“The ineffectiveness is that we are trying to criminalise people who are in contact with each other and there will be many times when that contact is legitimate,” he said.

“Instead we should be putting money into the overall police force and treating the police with respect. Being a cop is a difficult job so providing them with that sort of support rather than relying on ‘vote for me because I have an easy fix’.”

Mr Hanson maintained the laws would aid in prevention of gang-related crime.

“If we had these laws operating in the ACT over the past decade, we wouldn’t see four bikie gangs, we wouldn’t see the number of bikies we’ve got operating across our city so it would help prevent these crimes,” he said.

“It’s outrageous that the Labor Government and the Greens have voted against anti-consorting laws.

“It’s outrageous and they have to take responsibility for what’s happening across our city. If an innocent civilian is killed or hurt, they will have blood on their hands.”

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