Incongruous as it may sound, according to the Australian Crime Commission, bikie gangs are even hiring public relations professionals to work on their image.
But perhaps they need a bit of a makeover, because their image at the moment is not exactly a favourable one. Bikie gangs and the violence that has notoriously erupted several times over the last few years is making headlines and even making governments change laws.
Just days ago, Jospeh Gatt was charged in Goulburn Local Court of the murder of 18-year-old Bassil Hijazi last year. He is the second person to be charged over the shooting which took place in a gym car park in Bexley.
Hijazi was associated with a gang, the Comanchero bikie club and was shot in the neck just 12 days earlier, but wasn’t too fazed. His friends saw him getting a haircut shortly after he was released from hospital and it appeared that the first shooting may have been just a warning.
But the second, and fatal, attack showed that the motivation behind both were much more sinister.
After the attack on Hijazi, his pregnant mother was distraught that the police didn’t or couldn’t stop her sons death. She wants the men involved brought to justice.
Earlier this year, in March we saw the arrest of a 23-year-old man in relation to his death and now Jospeh Gatt, a 24-year-old prisoner in Goulburn jail, has been charged. He was already in jail after having been arrested in November on drugs and weapons charges.
At Goulburn Local Court, Gatt’s case was adjourned. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that police allege the pair arrested in relation to Hijazi’s death had killed him as part of an ongoing tit-for-tat dispute.
An Australia-wide initiative aiming to get guns off the streets successfully found and seized numerous guns, ammunition and gun-making tools. Yet, for the family of Hijazi it is too late.
But the murder of a teenager who had links to the Comanchero bikie club again draws attention to the bikie violence, a problem that the NSW government tried to deal with years ago and hasn’t gone away.
In 2011 the High Court ruled against the NSW bikie laws – the Crimes (Criminal Organisations Control) Act, which is now repealed. The act purported to give courts the power to outlaw bikie gangs and make members avoid contact with each other. The laws came in after the murder of bikie gang member at Sydney Airport in 2009 and a crackdown on bikie violence and crime.
The purported act would have given the Supreme Court the power to declare an organisation invalid without giving any reasons and then make it an offence for any member of such an organisation to associate with any other members.
The legislation was struck down as invalid because it was incompatible with the freedoms of political communication and of association.
But this hasn’t deterred the Queensland Parliament from enacting their own anti-bikie laws on similar terms. The laws are being challenged in court, by the same barrister who was successful in the earlier NSW case.
This month the former Comanchero boss, from the same gang as Hijazi left jail, on conditional bail. He was jailed in 2011 over the fatal bashing of the very same member of Hells Angels that sparked the NSW legislative backlash against bikies.
The Australian Crime Commission found that there are over 40 outlaw motorcycle gangs operating within Australia.
Bikie gangs feature in organised crime across Australia and in recent years there has been a trend towards the illegal drug trade for many bikie gangs, who manufacture particularly amphetamines, however they also have links with other illegal activities such as fraud, money laundering, extortion, bribery and prostitution.
But investigations into Hijazi’s death, including the trial held in Goulburn Local court, demonstrate that the problem has not gone away in the intervening years since the failed legislation, or the subsequent laws brought in to tackle the problem.