The VLAD and associated so-called “anti-bikie” laws rushed in by the Newman Government in 2013 will be axed by the Labor Government, but details on their replacement are still vague.
The Queensland Crime and Corruption Commission 400-odd-page report on the laws basically says they were badly written, an affront to civil liberties and would never stand up to a proper High Court challenge.
Critics such as former Gold Coast detective and now Bond University criminology associate professor Terry Goldsworthy, have also pointed out that they have been ineffective with crime stats increasing rather than decreasing and only one person convicted.
The report is a massive rebuke of the fear-mongering campaign by the Murdoch press and the police submission that said the declared clubs were 25% more likely to commit crimes and should therefore be declared criminal organisations.
In response, the Labor Government says they will remain tough on organised crime, but have not yet released any details on replacement laws.
Terry says the review taskforce is a substantial body of work undertaken with “due consideration and wide consultation, something the VLAD laws were missing”.
“There has been a realisation that bikies are just a small part of the organised crime problem and the laws required to address organised crime must be able to deal with groups other than just bikies,” he says.
“An extra $37 million in funding will also aid in the fight against organised crime. Importantly the government has recognised the need for an independent crime statics body, such as the [NSW BOCSAR]. This should prevent politicisation of the police which has been a key feature of this issue.
“This report is a step in the right direction for dealing with organised crime as a whole, rather than just focusing on one small sub-group. Why the recommendations have been made, the real test for the government will be how these can be successfully implemented.”
Meanwhile, police should now take a chill pill and get back to proper and legal police work rather than rider harassment and profiling over what clothes a person wears or their tattoos.
They should also increase their vigilance on pedophile activity which has apparently flourished while they’ve been wasting their time on bikies.
The Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment Act and associated laws will remain until replaced, but surely police will not be so over-zealous in their application of the anti-association aspects and stop, search and detain powers of the laws in the interim.
However, rider Jamie Evans who famously videoed police harassing him believes the report will “open the door for the police to really clamp down on motorcycle riders”.
“One point though is the stop and search on suspicion by the QPS is to be stopped. Unfortunately I don’t think the QPS will follow this directive and we’ll be back to the days of when VLAD was first introduced.”
It is also expected that the Tattoo Parlours Bill and the Criminal Law Criminal Gangs Destruction Amendment Bill will be amended.
They had provided an extra 18 months’ jail for any member of a criminal motorcycle gang found to own or operate a tattoo parlour, and up to seven years jail for those members who gather in groups.
It is yet to be seen whether certain riders will be allowed to congregate in groups publicly although they do say clubhouses will remain closed.
However, the government seems intent on scrapping the anti-association aspects of the laws and putting more emphasis on the individual, so it should make a return to natural justice where criminals are punished for what they have done, not who they are or with whom they associate.
But it is a concern that Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath says they are “committed to ensuring we have laws that will deal with outlaw motorcycle gangs in public places, for example, mass rides up the roads”.
That still places legitimate charity and social rides under a vague cloud of police scrutiny and harassment.
The government also says the ban against “colours” and insignias in licensed premises will remain, so there will still be a list of banned organisations.
However, the government says the list will not be arbitrary like the current list of 26 motorcycle clubs and will be formally reviewed, so it could include organisations other than “bikie” clubs.
Let’s hope staff on licensed premises know the difference between a Ulysses vest and the colours of a declared organisation. Remember, even the police accidentally detained a man for wearing a Sons of Anarchy t-shirt in Mt Isa!
A legislative implementation group will be formed to draft the replacement laws and the Queensland Police Union has been offered a place. No timeline has been established for the new laws and no other details on who will help draft them.
Travis Windsor, who stood for state parliament and is the founder of the Australian Motorcycle Business Chamber, says many aspects of the VLAD laws did not meet community expectation.
“While the criminal elements of the laws were questionable, other aspects such as targeting thousands of normal motorcyclists with harassment which caused many law-abiding Queensland motorcyclists to stop riding, were equally clumsy,” he says.
“This had the affect of motorcycle-related businesses losing millions each week, and some going broke, even though they had nothing to do with organised crime.
“While the harassment doesn’t seem to be the problem that it was, the fact that it was so widespread and was so discriminatory and hateful, the true colours of the police were revealed for all to see.
“The whole VLAD episode in someways heralded the end of basic freedoms in Australia. Freedom is why we ride, and freedom no longer exists. The two-party system has made sure of that.”