Compensation to people wrongfully arrested and harassed under the Queensland Government’s Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment (VLAD) Act could cost up to $100 million, according to Alex Douglas.
The former head of the Parliamentary Crime and Misconduct Commission and now state parliamentary leader of the Palmer United Party told an anti-VLAD meeting tonight in Brisbane that he believed the government would lose the High Court challenge to the laws.
“I have been reliably informed that the State Government has been advised that the High Court challenge will probably succeed and it will put the state in for a massive compensation claim,” he said. He later estimated that the compensation bill would be in the order of $50-$100m and that he wouldn’t put it past the government to try to revise legislation to avoid paying the costs. “The government is terrified and is in serious trouble.”
Alex was one of several guest speakers at the meeting which only drew about 50 interested members. However, several people said they had friends and associates who wanted to attend but were too scared that they would breach the draconian legislation. Even some of the guest speakers did not attend for fear of breaching the laws and sent friends to read out prepared statements.
The meeting was organised by Australian Motorcycle Business Chamber founder Travis Windsor who told the meeting that the laws had caused riders to stay home in fear, costing the motorcycle industry $5m in losses per week plus many jobs, but that had been reduced to about $1m a week in recent months. “Since the laws came in, it has cost the industry $50m in total losses.” He said losses to associated industries such as hospitality and tourism were incalculable.
Not only had the laws cost the state in revenue and may cost more in compensation, but had also led to an increase in organised crime. Alex said bikie crime represented only 0.4% of all crime and about 5% of organised crime, yet their organised crime activities had flourished underground since the laws were introduced last October because police had been diverted from their proper duties.
He said he did not have statistics yet, but organised crime had increased “significantly; about 12 to 15%”. He said there were two major crime syndicates that were “largely being ignored”.
“These laws have cost an absolute fortune for no benefit at all,” he said. “There has been only one major drug bust since VLAD; they used to have one a week before the laws.”
Among those who may seek compensation are the Yandina 5, represented at the meeting by former Rebels Sergeant at Arms Mike Smith who read out statements from his sons, Scott and Steven. They were arrested three weeks before Christmas for having a beer with their father and denied bail by Tim Carmody who has since been elevated to Chief Justice. They served several months in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day with fewer privileges than Daniel Morcombe’s killer in the next cell.
Another who could seek compensation is Sally Keuther, a librarian and mother of three who spent six days in jail and faces six months in solitary confinement for the “crime” of entering a hotel with her fiancé and one of their friends. She did not attend the meeting for fear of breaching a strict curfew and sent a friend to read a statement which said she now lives in fear.
Misfits Social Motorcycle Club member Jamie Evans told the meeting he would not be seeking compensation despite being pulled over by the police more than 21 times and frequently being harassed by police patrols outside his house. However, he said he would like a formal apology from Premier Campbell Newman.
Motorcyclists Australia Party founder Paul Keyworth expressed his disappointment in the roll-up. He said he was hoping to complete the 500 signatures he needs for official registration of the party. He originally collected more than 600, but had omitted date-of-birth details and had to start again.