The ride register will remain and recreational riders will continue to be incorrectly intercepted in the short term, but riders have been promised long-term gains from the current Queensland Police crackdown on criminal bikie activity.
That was the mixed outcome of a second meeting held today of Police Commissioner Ian Stewart and Police Minister Jack Dempsey with representatives of Queensland recreational rider groups.
In a 90-minute far-ranging meeting to discuss operational issues surrounding the “bikie crackdown” but not the legislation itself, the Minister promised that in the long-term, recreational rider numbers would grow and they would enjoy an “improved environment for recreational riders”, free from intimidation by criminal bikies.
He and the Commissioner also promised to start promoting the positive aspects of recreational motorcycling such as tourism, charity work and transport benefits, starting with their participation in toy runs over the next two weekends.
Commissioner Stewart said he would ride a police Yamaha in this Sunday’s 17th annual Ipswich Toy Run (Deputy Police Commissioner Brett Pointing said it must be the first time a serving state police commissioner had participated in a motorcycle toy run), while the Minister promised to cancel other arrangements to pillion in the Gasoline Alley Toy Run the following weekend.
But the Commissioner didn’t retract his voluntary ride register which has been rejected in a poll by 93% of readers of this site. Read my story here.
In fact, he encouraged more clubs to register their rides to avoid “slip-ups” (mistaken interceptions) and avoid criminal bikies “infiltrating” social rides, even though Deputy Police Commissioner Brett Pointing confirmed that “to the best of my knowledge” not one criminal bikie had been caught on a planned recreational club ride.
Since the register was introduced two weeks ago, 25 rides have been registered by about 15 different clubs.
The Commissioner said he also couldn’t promise that there would not be more “slip-ups” and “inconveniences” where innocent riders were mistakenly intercepted and he couldn’t say how long that situation would continue.
He also said more people could be falsely accused of being criminal associates and he couldn’t offer a method of clearing your name (although one club representative suggested riders go to their local police station to have their name cleared – a suggestion that was roundly ignored).
However, the Commissioner did promise that:
- recreational riders were not being targeted;
- he would apologise to the families of people falsely accused of being associates of criminal bikies;
- he would write to lawful club blogs, encouraging riders to continue social activities;
- he would directly invite and encourage HOG members around the nation to attend the Cairns AGM rally in May and that they would have “nothing to worry about”;
- junior officers not used to dealing with motorcycle riders would be further educated to avoid incorrect interceptions;
- he would attend more meetings with the representatives of recreational rider groups; and
- there would be “less and less pulling groups up”.
Meanwhile, the Minister promised he would:
- speak with the Premier and Ministerial colleagues to encourage them to send a positive message about social motorcycle clubs;
- promote the positives of motorcycling such as regional tourism;
- invite the Transport Minister to the next meeting so motorcycling transport issues can be discussed; and
- promote the charity work of “legitimate” motorcycle clubs in his media statements.
The meeting, held in the State Law Offices, included Australian Motorcycle Council representative Tony Ellis who flew in from Sydney, Motorcycle Riders Association of Queensland president Chris Mearns, Harley Owners Group Australia executive Kim Williams who flew in from Sydney, and representatives of clubs such as the Diggers, Ulysses and BMW Club of Queensland.
The latter told the meeting that even his members had been incorrectly intercepted “in the pouring rain” by officers who couldn’t tell the difference between a BMW, a dirt bike, a race bike and a cruiser.
He also said that during the meeting he had received a text to say a planned club Christmas function had been cancelled because members were so concerned about the situation they would not attend.
The impact on riding and regional tourism was echoed by Kim who said they were hoping for 2000 to attend the HOG AGM in Cairns.
“But I’ve received phone calls from people saying they are not going because they don’t want to ride through Queensland,” she said.
“It’s a national problem now.” She also said HOG members fully agreed with the crackdown on criminal gangs.
There was unanimous common ground over the negative reporting by the mainstream media, particularly The Courier-Mail.
A Diggers Motorcycle Club member said the result of the media’s negative spin and political rhetoric was that the general public was becoming aggressive toward all motorcycle riders.
Chris said he was disappointed that the Commissioner couldn’t provide an answer for people falsely accused nor explain the term “associate”.
Tony said the AMC would “wait and see” if the political negative rhetoric about motorcycles died down.
“We have to give them the benefit of the doubt,” he said.
AMC spokeswoman Eva Cripps who attended the first meeting said this evening that the current situation is “untenable”.
“Motorcyclists should not have to put up with any harassment, labeled as ‘inconvenience’, while going about their lawful business.”
Open dialogue is always better than no dialogue or confrontation, even if the membership of these biker meetings may not be perfect.
It appears that there is more pain (loss of freedoms, civil liberties and basic human rights) to suffer in the short term as the government and police continue in their war on bikies.
Meanwhile we have been promised a rosy future with no outlaw bikies, promotion of motorcycling and even the tantalising carrot of having some of our issues discussed with the Transport Minister (how about free tollways, free footpath parking, discount multiple regos, etc?).
However, the end does not justify the means.
There is a lot of work that the police need to do to avoid stomping on innocent people’s rights.
And then there’s the matter of the draconian legislation itself. The only way that may be changed is with a High Court challenge or a change of government.
I asked to be invited to this meeting as a Queensland representative of the motorcycling media and I was surprised to receive an invitation and acknowledgement at the meeting.
I will gladly return for any subsequent meetings if the invitation is extended again.
Let the dialogue continue.
Now, it’s your turn to have your say in the comment box below.
I can guarantee you that the government and police are monitoring your comments on this site.
Fourteen of the 26 motorcycle clubs that have been declared criminal associations by the Queensland Vicious Lawless Associations Disestablishment (VLAD) Act have announced they will launch a High Court challenge to the laws before Christmas.
The challenge is expected to cost $500,000 and will by fought by NSW Hells Angels barrister Wayne Baffsky and a Brisbane law firm.
The AMC previously announced a fighting fund to assist any legal challenge to any of the draconian laws.