The tide is turning against the VLAD Act in the wake of recent events such as the six-day jailing of a woman for having a beer with “bikies” while two police officers were granted immediate bail over rape charges. Is it any wonder the Queensland Government now finds its majority waning and that it could lose up to 30 seats in an election?
A Galaxy poll has found the number of Queenslanders opposed to the anti-association laws has climbed from 37% to 45% in three months while those in favour dropped from 56 to 48%. Premier Campbell Newman will no longer be able to say he is acting for the majority when the poll shows that those who think the laws are too tough have leapt from 41 to 50%.
It is surprising it isn’t even higher given the recent case of Sally Kuether, arrested and jailed for six days after having a beer with her partner and a friend who are members of the Life and Death Motorcycle Club. It is believed the Queensland Police sifted through CCTV footage before arresting the Brisbane librarian and mother of three. Though not a member of the club, Sally was charged as an associate under strict laws that do not permit three or more members of 26 listed clubs to be in public together. Any club or organisation could be added to that list at any time at the whim of politicians.
On her release from jail on bail, Sally asked, “I can’t see what I’ve done wrong. All I did was have a beer with my partner and my mate,” she says. “How is that wrong? I’ve never committed any crime in my life ever before. I’m an upstanding citizen, what can I say?’’ Her six-day wait for bail is in stark contrast to the two north Queensland police officers who were granted bail immediately after facing court charged with raping a woman while they were on duty in Mackay.
If found to be an associate of a listed organisation under the VLAD Act, Sally faces at least six months in jail in solitary confinement for 22 hours a day. The definition of “associate” has not yet been outlined by the government nor the Police Commissioner. Rather than the State prove that Sally is guilty, she will be required to prove that she is innocent, reversing the onus of proof.
Kim Peart, an activist against the VLAD Act, says solitary confinement is “an acknowledged form of torture, which can drive a prisoner mad and result in the need for medication, turning them into a zombie, so they can cope”.