Marg V from Two Wheeled Life posted a comment on my last post, and I though it worthy of better reply than just a response comment.
Incidentally I’d like to apologise to those of you that can’t view the clip in that post due to region viewing restrictions imposed on YouTube. It’s a funny and sarcastic look at the Bikie (Biker) vs police situation which most Australians will be able to relate to
Marge V said:
It sounds like there’s a real problem going on down there with this issue. The news we get up here gives the impression that it’s not safe to ride your motorcycle down there due to either being targeted by the police or being assaulted by ‘vigilantes’.
Whats the truth?
Is it even safe to ride down there anymore?
The short answer is: Yes it is safe to ride.
There is a caveat however. MargVs’ question goes deeper than what appears on the surface.
Stay With Me While I Give You Some Background…
Over the years, several state governments have had a crack at introducing legislation to try to thwart criminal activity and organised crime. In 2008 the South Australian State Government brought in the Serious and Organised Crime (Control) Act 2008 (SOCCA). The New South Wales, Queensland and the Northern Territory State Governments quickly followed suit with their own versions. Western Australia held off till 2011, when it introduced its Criminal Organisations Control Bill 2011.
Both the South Australian and New South Wales Acts were found to be unconstitutional by the High Court of Australia in 2010 and 2011 respectively and were repealed.
You can read more about the history of these laws here in an article by Gabrielle Appleby, Senior Lecturer at the Law School, University of Adelaide.
In October of 2013 The Queensland State Government expanded the laws that they already had in place, and enacted the Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment Bill 2013. Locally this Bill is known as VLAD (As in VLAD the Impaler), and was accompanied by several other bills. I’ve written tongue in cheek about them here and here.
Vlad The Impaler (Photo courtesy Wikipedia)
So Whats The Problem?
The Problem is that VLAD was railroaded through parliament without consultation and without the opportunity for real comment. When you read the VLAD act you will not see one single reference to Motorcyclist, Motorcycles, Bikies, Bikers or any other common term by which people who ride motorcycles are refereed to.
In effect these laws apply to everyone.
The laws are so broad, and so open to abuse, that even the ladies at the local Country Womens Association (CWA) could be caught up in this legislation. If just one member of the CWA was charged with dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, the rest of the members could be declared associates within a criminal organisation because they are all members of the CWA. They could face 6 months imprisonment just for baking cakes with her. The burden will be on them to prove otherwise.
Add to this a new bill which is due to come into force later this year, prohibiting Bikies or their Associates obtaining or holding an Electrical Contractors Licence. Other trades are also targeted in this Bill. The fear is that because these tradesmen and women, even if they have never been convicted of an offence, will be forced out of work and on to welfare just because of the friends that they have.
Consider also, if you are a Contracts Administrator and deal with people at a professional level, one of whom happens to be a member of a declared criminal organisation.
Are you then deemed an associate?
Read the VLAD Act and you will see that it is a very real possibility.
Is It Safe To Ride Anymore?
As I stated earlier. Yes.
In any society you will get the rogue cop, or member of the public that takes the law into their own hands.
Since VLAD was enacted, there have been instances where riders have been pulled up and questioned about affiliations, their bikes defected (and later over turned on appeal) and tattoos photographed. Some riders have been pulled up as many as 3 times on their way to work.
Recently there was a freedom ride rally held in Brisbane where over 2000 riders attended. No big deal, all went smoothly until riders left the venue, where a few kilometres away form the venue riders were pulled over and given a going over by the Police.
Not one motorcar/ truck/ bus or horse-drawn vehicle was pulled over; only bikes.
There have been instances of riders being assaulted by members of the public. One instance reported by News Corp was in Victoria where these laws do not even apply. While another happened less than a month ago on the south side of Brisbane during an organised shop ride.
These things happen, you can’t stop stupidity.
Having said all that, I have been on several solo and group rides in the past few months and covered nearly 6000km. One outing had 60 riders plus pillions, and not once was I, or any other member of the group intercepted by police or been refused service at our destination.
In fact, I know one rider who spent a little over two weeks riding from Brisbane to Melbourne and back again. He passed through New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory on his trip and covered over 4000km without incident. He returned last week, and said the only problem was he thinks he may pick up a speeding fine from an unmanned speed trap somewhere in New South Wales.
The long and the short of it is. If you attract attention to yourself with loud exhaust or riding like an idiot, you will be targeted. This has always been the case.
Where Do I Stand?
I agree something needs to be done about criminal activity, regardless of who is involved or what crime is committed.
Commit the crime, do the time.
I do not support these laws, or any law that targets a demographic, restricts a persons freedom of speech, freedom of movement, freedom of dress, or freedom to associate with whomever they choose.
I also do not support a law that deems someone guilty, places the burden of proof of innocence upon the accused and places said person in solitary confinement for 23 hours per day for 6 months, just because they had some insignia in a public place, or because they were having a beer with their wife and son at the local pub.
Remember only one of these people needs to be a member of a declared organisation, the rest are associates after the first meeting.
I believe that it is about time that Australia enacted a Bill Of Rights for it’s people. Failing to do so will just see laws like VLAD enacted ad nauseam.