Queensland anti-bikie laws threaten work licences of 200 electricians, union says
By Donna Field
A trades union has raised alarm that 200 electricians could lose their licence to practice because of Queensland's controversial anti-bikie laws.Tattoo parlours, locksmiths and tow truck companies have felt the heat as a result of the laws, and many alleged bikies are in custody purely for associating with other members.
Now the Electrical Trades Union says scores of workers face losing their licences because of a prior association with a gang.
State secretary Peter Simpson acknowledges many are members of bikie gangs, but says they have no criminal record and have tried to resign from the clubs.
He says the laws make it impossible for people to escape their pasts.
"Even if they resigned previously, before this legislation started, my understanding is they're still deemed to be a member," he said.
"Even if they've been resigned for, say, 20-odd years, they're still deemed to be an associate of an outlaw motorcycle club, which is scary."
He says the Government has gone too far.
"When that law now impinges on our members' rights or any worker's rights to earn an honest living, people who have got no criminal record are going to have their vocation taken off them and thrown on the dole queue and probably driven into crime," he said.
"It just beggars belief from our end."
Mr Simpson warns the Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment Act could have a dire effect on the entire trades industry.
"And it'll go further in the construction industry and electricity industry; anyone who's licensed or registered or holds a BSA licence or those sort of things will be in the same boat."
Government stands by lawsActing Attorney-General David Crisafulli stands by the laws, and says the union is muck-raking.
"Should somebody with bikie links be in your home, fixing your safety switch?" he said.
"Well, I'll let others decide that but I'll let the Electrical Trades Union decide whether or not they want to defend criminal motorcycle gangs.
"I might fall on the side of the homeowner on this one."
He says people who have decided they no longer want to be part of a gang have options.
"If you can show that you're not part of a criminal group any more, an associate; if you can show that your life is on the straight and narrow, you can be a sparkie, you can be a plumber, you can be whatever you like other than a bikie," he said.
But lawyers have advised the union it is not that easy.
One electrician who did not want to be identified has been told it will not matter if he resigns.
"The first thing I tried to do was leave my club because I will always look after my family first," he said.
"But my solicitor said it wouldn't make an iota of difference because they have written into the law that if you leave, you are still an associate."
Issue headed for High Court challengeThe issue is headed for a High Court challenge, with the Electrical Trades Union garnering support from other unions and trades' organisations.
Incoming Human Rights' Commissioner Tim Wilson says the laws demonstrate the worst consequences of what happens when people are treated as groups under the law and not as individuals.
"We shouldn't take away at any point that there is criminal activity being engaged by bikie gangs and that's why the Queensland State Government should pursue them to the full extent of the law," he said.
"But what they should be doing is punishing them for criminal conduct, not association.
"And that's where I guess there has to be a sensible approach to make sure that people are being arrested for the right reasons, rather than just associating with each other."