The hysteria over the anti-bikie laws will “blow over fairly quickly”, says Harley-Davidson Australia director of marketing Adam Wright.
While he admits that Vicious Lawless Associations Disestablishment (VLAD) Act and the proposed hotline to register rides with the police are “a bit scary”, he says we should learn from a similar crackdown on West Australian bikies in the 1990s.
“We did see some similar circumstances in Western Australia about 10-15 years ago which did have some impact on your average Harley-riding citizen where there was an element of concern about being wrongly targeted by the police,” he says.
“However, once the police were educated on the target audience it blew over fairly quickly.”
He says the meeting this week of recreational motorcycle groups, including HOG, with Police Minister Jack Dempsey and Police Commissioner Ian Stewart suggested police needed similar education.
“They said they would be educating their frontline units to ensure that they do target the right people,” he says.
Police may find it easy to get confused, especially if riders wear memorial ride patches and celebration patches.
“We certainly don’t recommend that any HOG members wear any skull vests which we don’t in this country, unlike some other countries,” Adam says.
Adam says Harley is not against a crackdown on organised crime activity, but is “a little concerned about the process”.
“We feel it’s a bit of blunt approach and not specifically targeted towards criminal activities and organisations,” he says.
“It may affect or impact on some of the independent rider groups out there.”
He says the police could easily be confused whether a Harley rider was an innocent citizen or a criminal bikie.
“Obviously these guys (OMC) are customers of ours as well because they do a lot of hard miles and they want a vehicle that is good quality, reliable and stands up to the test.
“That’s why they ride Harleys.
“We don’t condone any illegal activities, but from where we stand we are concerned about independent rider groups and if they are affected in any way from the fallout of these laws.”
Adam emphasised that motorcycle riders, particular Harley riders and HOG members, do “a lot of good things” for the community.
He pointed to the recent Harley-sponsored Pink Ribbon Rides that attracted more than 1000 bikes in Sydney alone and raised more than $80,000 for breast cancer research.
“A good majority of those were Harleys,” he says.
He also mentioned their sponsorship of Soldier On for returning servicemen, Layne Beachley’s Reach for the Stars, the Black Dog Ride “and the list goes on”.
“There is a lot of good that Harley does, so there is no denying it is of concern to us,” he says.
However, he played down fears that small groups of recreational riders out for a joy ride, rather than an organised group ride, would be targeted.
“From what the commissioner said there is the potential to target any larger riding groups.
They may be pulled over,” he says. “But I don’t think it will affect three or four mates out for a ride.”
He says the police are in the process of setting up an online register for any rider groups through Queensland.
“It will note that they are passing through certain towns, at certain times and with certain riders,” he says.
“We do support this, if they are trying to protect the public from illegal activities.
“If it’s a way to ensure that independent rider groups can still carry on, then yes it has to be done.
“Some may be concerned, but if you are a law-abiding citizen and doing what you do and just having fun there is no concern, even if you are pulled over by a member of the police.”