Australia biker gangs: Queensland plans tough laws

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Media captionThe BBC's Jon Donnison: "There are 35 different gangs across the country"

Queensland parliament in Australia is set to introduce tough new legislation to tackle motorcycle gang crime.

The proposed laws include destroying bikes of convicted gang members and forbidding members from owning tattoo parlours.

The state also plans to establish a prison solely for convicted motorcycle gang members.

The move comes after an escalation in biker gang-linked violence in recent years.

Queensland Premier Campbell Newman said the new laws were designed to "destroy" motorcycle gangs, which are also known as bikie gangs.

He said they would be the toughest anti-bikie laws in the world.

"We'll stop them from gathering in groups and going to, and wearing their colours at, certain places," he added.

Under the new laws, members will be forbidden from wearing biker club colours in public and working in or operating tattoo parlours, and will find it harder to receive bail.

Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie said that a bikie-only prison would be established north of Brisbane.

Convicted members would face strict drugs tests and would have their communications monitored.

"The punishment is deliberately and unapologetically severe because we want to break the bikies - break their enterprise, break their spirit, break up their groups," he said.

On 28 September, 18 people were charged following two brawls involving motorcycle gang members on Queensland's Gold Coast.

'Solitary confinement'

The bills are scheduled for their second reading in Queensland's parliament on Tuesday.

Local media report that the legislation could be passed by the parliament as early as Tuesday evening.

"Consultation has occurred within Government. Wider consultation has not been possible because of the need to respond urgently to the significant public threat criminal gangs pose in Queensland," the government wrote in an explanatory note for the legislation.

The proposed laws have been criticised by civil liberties groups.

Australian Council for Civil Liberties president Terry O'Gorman described the legislation as "shock and awe" tactics and said that lawmakers had "refused to consult with anyone except the police".

Debbie Kilroy, representing prisoner support group Sisters Inside, told Australian media that a bikie-only prison would risk "pushing young men further to the margins by keeping them in solitary confinement".

Last year police warned that feuds between motorcycle gangs - including a series of shootings in Sydney - were a step away from becoming an all-out war.

Earlier this month, eight members of rival biker gangs were arrested in Victoria state, and police said they seized guns, ammunition and drugs after a raid on dozens of gang-linked properties.

The Gold Coast area of Queensland is seen as have a particular problem with such gangs, the BBC's Jon Donnison in Sydney reports.

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