Taken for a Ride
Kim Peart. ABC pic. First pub Jan 20
22.01.14 1:30 am
Queensland’s extreme VLAD laws revive the memory of Vlad the Impaler
Premier Campbell Newman
The VLAD* laws in Queensland are extreme and now we can wonder if Australia is on the road to becoming a fascist state.
It has taken a little while since the VLAD laws were passed last year, but now the reality of their extreme nature is dawning and a tsunami of public anger is beginning to rise.
The 1989 Fitzgerald Inquiry made clear recommendation about legislation, but this was ignored when the surreally named VLAD bill was quickly made an act of the Queensland Parliament and presented as law.
Standing for the Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment act , its acronym “VLAD” is a reminder of the dark-hearted Vlad the Impaler, the Mediaeval Prince of Wallachia (1431-1477) who is said to have had as many as 100,000 people impaled on stakes, where they suffered a slow and cruel death.
Prince Vlad is also the historic inspiration for Bram Stoker’s 1897 Gothic horror novel ‘Dracula’.
The VLAD act is particularly cruel, as it reverses the onus of proof, so that a prisoner on remand is treated as guilty when charged, before they may be proven innocent in a court of law.
Josh Carew, a pizza shop owner on the Sunshine Coast, was recently released from six weeks on remand under the VLAD regime, in maximum security, in isolation, locked in a cell for 23 hours a day with no TV or educational materials.
No matter the charge, such treatment is horrendous in the extreme and more akin to torture.
Such is the fate of prisoners under the VLAD, whether on remand, or sentenced.
The cruel punishment begins early, because guilt is immediate, attracting an automatic 15 or 25 year jail term.
Josh told the Sunshine Coast Daily how the isolation began to drive him mad, how he had to be given drugs just to sleep at night, how he became like a zombie. 
Could anyone tell me what country the State of Queensland is in?
If this is still Australia, then we appear to have lost any hint of a “fair go”.
Have we become a cruel society?
Whatever happened to prison time as a process of reform?
This tale of Gothic horror springs from a decision to declare a number of motor bike clubs as criminal organisations and view anyone associated with them, now or in the past, as a potential criminal.
There was no process of law to determine that the clubs listed were criminal, just political propaganda hammering the spin.
As part of a war on motor bike clubs dubbed criminal, three or more members or associates found in a public place are now committing a crime, along with anyone seen with them.
When five former members of the Rebels Motorcycle Club, including family and friends, were found on CCTV in the Yandina pub having a beer, they fell under the VLAD retribution and were arrested with automated guilt.
Imagine how many people would be associated with any biker club over decades, which is why so many Queenslanders are now living in fear.
When five bikies from Victoria, members of dubbed criminal clubs in that State, were found in a public place on the Gold Coast, they were arrested, viewed as guilty under the VLAD and sent off to the Gothic horror isolation cells that Queensland now provides.
If the directions of the Fitzgerald Inquiry had been followed, the VLAD bill would have been reviewed by a committee, but with a zeal of conviction equal to Prince Vlad, this did not happen.
The Labor Party abolished the State upper house, the Legislative Council, in 1922, which leaves Queensland as the only State in the Commonwealth that lacks any house of review for legislation.
By side-stepping the committee process and with no upper house to scrutinise the legislation, the suspect title was never questioned, along with the implications of this dark-hearted bill.
As the Liberal National Party, under Premier Campbell Newman, had won power with an overwhelming majority, they felt emboldened to rush the bill through and did.
Now the Sunshine State is gaining a rather dark reputation around the World, as a place where democracy is being impaled on a stake, along with the freedom of association.
Like Vlad the Impaler, who fought many wars against the Turks and had many Muslims put to the stake, the war against bikie gangs is being run with military precision, with retired Brigadier Bill Mellor appointed to direct strategy.
Such was the confidence of Premier Newman, that Mellor’s appointment remained secret from the public, until becoming known by accident after a couple of months.
Premier Campbell Newman served in the Australian Army for 13 years, becoming friends with Andrew Wilkie at Duntroon, where there was a tradition among the cadets of celebrating Adolf Hitler’s rise to power.
Known as Noddy at Duntroon, Newman went on to gain the rank of Major as an Army engineer.
It is difficult to find the full story of his Army career, or whether he served overseas.
One report describes how the Army invited Major Newman to serve on the Golan Heights, but he chose to retire instead and enter civilian life. 
We can but wonder now if time in a conflict zone along the Syrian border would have shaped a better leader out of Newman, rather than one so willing to mete out extreme punishment upon prisoners.
As many ex-service members join motor bike clubs, often as a way of working through issues, time away may have instilled more sympathy for the plight of the ordinary man or woman.
When the chance arose to run for the Mayor of Brisbane, Newman had his first electoral success.
Politics was in his blood, as his father Kevin had been elected to the Tasmanian Federal seat of Bass in 1975 and his mother Jocelyn served as a Senator for Tasmania from 1986.
Being directly elected as the Mayor of Brisbane, Newman found himself a minority leader in a Labor dominated council.
This restriction of power may have been a little frustrating for a man with ambitions.
From high office in local government, Newman was supported in a run to be the Premier of Queensland by members of the Liberal National Party.
In a surreal charade, Newman found himself the leader of the parliamentary party, even though he wasn’t yet elected to the Queensland Parliament.
We can only wonder if some time as an ordinary member of the State Parliament would have better prepared Newman for the role of Premier, instead of wielding power from the shadows on his way to the Premier’s office.
Now the exercise of power is too evident, too swift, too fast and too far into darkness as the VLAD laws echo across Queensland and around the World.
Other State governments have been pushing similar legislation and now the most extreme form of punishment regime is at work in Queensland, there will be a tendency for the other States to catch up.
Though Premier Newman has said he will abandon the VLAD laws in three years, this may not be possible, if other States have adopted similar legislation.
Many bikie club members and associates are losing their employment and businesses because of the VLAD laws, being told by the Premier to find honest work, but then restricted as to where they can work.
This is akin to an invitation to pursue crime as the only option for people with limited skills, which would then create work for the Police, lawyers, the courts and the prisons, especially the prisons, with an automated guilty process at work.
Tattoos have become a prime target and as bikies sport tattoos, anyone riding a bike runs the risk of being pulled over by the Police and asked to strip on the side of the road so that their tattoos can be photographed.
To refuse is to risk being arrested, a dilemma faced by Russell Baxter, who decided to comply, but submitted a question on the Premier’s FaceBook page, which was later removed. 
When Jamie Evans was filling his Harley Davidson tank at a service station, he was approached by a total of six Police cars and a dozen Police, who over a period of 45 minutes repeatedly asked the same questions.
He had been pulled over 21 times in the past year, was not a member of one of the listed bikie clubs and surrounded by so many Police with their fingers close to their tazer guns, it is amazing that he kept his cool as he filmed the interrogation.
Posted on YouTube, over half a million people have now viewed this film ~
YouTube posted by Jamie Evans ~
Many point out that the service station lost an hours’ worth of business when the Police State took over the site.
What has become quite clear with the collecting of tattoo images and the repeated questions, is that the Police are now collecting extensive information on citizens and the process has only just begun.
The military mind has pitted itself against the citizen in this nation as an enemy and we know from the Edward Snowdon revelations how this connects with ASIO and international intelligence networks, where detailed information on citizens is all too willingly shared.
The VLAD legislation specifically leaves out any mention of bikies and for a specific reason.
The VLAD is intended to target many groups in society, with the bikies being the first.
The chief law officer, the Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie, has stated that, “Specific gangs are named in parts of our legislation but we deliberately allowed it to also capture other criminal groups such as paedophile rings.” 
Why was new legislation that included automatic guilt through association, including 23 hours of solitary confinement a day, so necessary, when there are a wide range of laws already in place to pursue paedophiles, locally and internationally?
We have seen how laws intended to protect children have ended up turning teenagers into criminals, with the sexting craze among the young.
A disturbing case in Tasmania saw a local Alderman arrested, tried, found guilty and placed on the sex offenders register.
David Traynor was found guilty of possessing child abuse material on his computer, in the form of an 1880s novel called ‘The Pearl’, which was also available to borrow in the local library and could be purchased in bookshops around Australia.
I wrote a report on this case in the Tasmanian Times ~
Clearly, legislation handed out by politicians and wildly abused by zealous Police officers seeking to fill arrest quotas, can result in a bizarre legal landscape, where reputations are shredded, families wrecked and lives destroyed.
Fortunately, the Traynor conviction was overturned and the community voted him back into the Clarence Council at the next election, but under the vengeance of the VLAD act, there may be no such mercy for anyone caught in a similar net.
The VLAD may begin by targeting paedophile rings, but as with the broad brush being swept across the motor bike riding community, we can expect Police raids on galleries, artists’ studios and family photo albums, where even happy pics of naked kids at the beach in the 1950s may be viewed as crimes against the State, where automatic guilt may see a grandparent tossed into solitary confinement in this legal madness that is gripping this nation.
Why are the Queensland Police gathering images of personal body art?
Will some personal body art be declared criminal?
This is extremely dangerous territory, where drawings and cartoons of children are being caught in the net.
One of the two items of child abuse material that David Traynor was charged with possessing, was a cartoon, but the cartoon was thrown out.
When the former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd saw an image of the work of the renowned Australian photographer Bill Henson, he described the work as “absolutely revolting.” 
The Police confiscated the works, but all photographs shown in the exhibition were deemed to be OK in the eyes of the law.
Under a national VLAD type approach, will artists find themselves more severely and swiftly dealt with in the emerging Police State that our politicians are so keenly building around us?
It should be plainly evident by now, that the laws that politicians are driving in Australia are about keeping the people fearful and therefore, easier to control.
When you never know if you will hear a tap on the door when the Police come to see you about that tattoo that they photographed on your back by the side of the road, you are living in fear.
Should we live in fear?
People have wondered about where else the VLAD act could be applied, with suggestions being trade unions and environmental groups.
We have a long and proud tradition of grass-roots activism with many issues, including speaking out for human rights in East Timor and West Papua.
East Timor is now free, but West Papua is still subject to fierce debate, where Papuans are regularly killed for daring to call for self-determination.
As Prime Minister Tony Abbott pushes a hard line on refugees arriving by sea, he may also take a hard line with anyone speaking up for West Papua, as he seeks to rebuild the bridges with Indonesia and count economic ties more valid than human rights.
Last year Mr Abbott said, “People seeking to grandstand against Indonesia, please, don’t look to do it in Australia, you are not welcome.” 
This could be an indication of the future, where anyone speaking up for West Papua, or their associates, could be targeted with the VLAD act in Queensland and other incarnations of this law around the nation.
If we wish to turn the tide of Australia becoming a Police State, we must fight back and fight back hard, if we value our freedom.
If we remember the spirit of Eureka, which flies as the stars of the Southern Cross on our flag, we may find the vision to consider our own Bill of Rights, as we look toward our own full independence as a nation.
This is a discussion and a debate that we must have, if we value our freedom in the land DownUnder.
Should the Queensland Parliament bring back the upper house, so that laws are scrutinised more thoroughly, before being dumped on the people?
Until then, should all recent Queensland legislation be reviewed by the Australian Senate, to avoid bad law, public anger and the drift to a Police State?
Should a review of the Fitzgerald Inquiry be held, or a new judicial enquiry launched, to determine if the State of Queensland is returning to its former dark political and Police past.
If we fail to act, if we remain dumb in the face of a bad law and cruel punishment that is being driven by political power, we will risk losing Australia to a Police State and who knows how far the slide to fascism will go.
Should people feel driven beyond endurance, the spirit of Eureka may see a real revolution spread like a fire across the land.
We must go beyond political spin and power mongering, if we wish to build a great and free nation with a strong heart.
Bikies have been used as a scapegoat to raise a fog of fear in the north.
No group in society should ever be used as a scapegoat.
The wheels are now turning toward a High Court appeal against the VLAD legislation and the eyes of the World will be upon us to see what we decide.
To paraphrase Martin Niemöller ~
First they came for the bikies,
and I didn’t speak out because I didn’t ride a bike.
Then they came for the artists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t an artist.
Then they came for the activists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t an activist.
Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.
WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE VLAD ~
• Fails to keep the powers of the parliament and the court separate.
• Its making saw due process ignored when the VLAD bill was not reviewed by a relevant committee, as recommended by the Fitzgerald Inquiry.
• Turns free association in society into a crime.
• Treats people in society differently, depending on the group that they are associated with.
• Makes any citizen liable to arrest and automatic incarceration through association.
• Turns incarceration from a reform process into a form of humiliation and torture.
• Has resulted in motorbike riders generally being harassed and intimidated because they are riding a motorbike.
• Has created confusion in society about what is legal.
• Has increased fear in the community of being arrested without warning, found guilty and incarcerated.
• Has increased public fear of and disrespect toward the Police, the Parliament and individual politicians.
• Has increased tensions which could trigger nervous reactions by citizens and or Police.
• Has generated an environment where Police are at greater risk because of increased tensions.
• Has created the possibility of a violent back-lash by citizens, which would then be read by politicians as the need for even harsher laws.
• Has opened the way toward Australia becoming a Police State with authoritarian and dictatorial government.
• Has limited the employment prospects of citizens in the target group.
• By limiting employment options, the prospect of generating crime is increased.
• Has seen a number of organisations labelled by the government as criminal gangs, when only some members of the organisation are involved in crime.
• Puts a fair trial under a cloud, as a jury may be influenced by the automatic assumption of guilt, as the defendant has already been found to be guilty before they can be found to be innocent.
• A fair trial may also be lost, should the defendant be driven mad in the harsh conditions suffered in solitary confinement while on remand.
• Interferes with a fair trial for interstate offenders in their own State, by labelling them as guilty before they might be found to be innocent.
• Places Queensland at risk of returning to the political and law environment that existed before the Fitzgerald Inquiry.
 Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment Act 2013 ~
 ‘Alleged bikie sees family for first time in six weeks’
Bill Hoffman, 16 January 2014, Sunshine Coast Daily
 ‘CANDO? CAMPBELL NEWMAN’S BID FOR QUEENSLAND’
Nick Bryant, December 2011, The Monthly
 United Against the Anti-Association Legislation
 ‘Bleijie slammed Bligh Govt’s proposed VLAD laws’
Bill Hoffman, 14 January 2014, Sunshine Coast Daily
 ‘PM says Henson photos have no artistic merit’
Matthew Westwood, 23 May 2008, The Australian
 ‘Tony Abbott’s claim West Papua ‘getting better’ rejected by experts’
Paddy Doulman, 9 October 2013, Sydney Morning Herald
SUGGESTED READING ~
‘Bikie laws fall foul of law of unintended consequences’
including the comments that follow
Rick Sarre, 8 January 2014, The Conversation