SYDNEY Mar 23 – Australian motorcycle gangs faced a major crackdown on Monday amid outrage over a brawl at Sydney airport in which a man was beaten to death in front of horrified passengers.
The strength of a special anti-gang police squad would be more than doubled to 125 officers and new legislation to outlaw biker gangs would be considered, the New South Wales state government said.
"We are responding swiftly to these brazen acts," said Premier Nathan Rees, declaring that he was "sickened and appalled" by the killing on Sunday.
A 29-year-old man was bludgeoned to death with metal crowd control bollards as about 20 gang members brawled in the check-in area, sending passengers fleeing in terror.
Police Commissioner Mick Keelty said the incident did not mean that security at the airport’s domestic terminal was weak.
The airport had its full complement of police officers on duty and there had been no intelligence suggesting the upcoming brawl, he said.
"The police can’t be everywhere all the time and this is an event that could have happened anywhere in Australia," Keelty said.
The fight followed a spate of drive-by shootings in Sydney during which homes were sprayed with gunfire and is believed to have involved a move to intercept bikers arriving from out of state.
Some reinforcements had been expected to bolster the Bandidos in their war with another gang, Notorious, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
Onlookers told the paper the bikers "came across the turnstiles like a tangled mob" during the brawl, traumatising children and their parents waiting for flights as blood spurted from the head of the dying man.
The bikers then fled. Four men were arrested and were due to appear in court later on Monday.
Rees said the government was considering adopting legislation against biker gangs already in place in South Australia state, which has been described as among the toughest in the world.
Under the laws, the authorities can outlaw biker gangs and make membership of specific groups a crime.
"Our laws allow us to proscribe criminal bikie gangs the same way we do terrorist groups," South Australian Premier Mike Rann said, urging the legislation be adopted nationwide.
Police have previously said biker gangs are major players in illegal drug distribution at Sydney nightclubs, leading to turf wars between rival groups.
Australia’s worst outbreak of biker violence was a 1984 shootout between the Bandidos and Comancheros in the car park of a Sydney pub in which six gang members and a 15-year-old girl died.