When I first heard people complaining about Queensland’s VLAD laws, I thought it was a tremendous over-reaction – they didn’t have to ban all vampire movies, just the “Twilight” series would have been sufficient!
But when I discovered what it really was, I thought that I’d better investigate further. So I looked up the legislation.
1 Short title
This Act may be cited as the Vicious Lawless Association
Disestablishment Act 2013.
(1) The objects of the Act are to—
(a) disestablish associations that encourage, foster or
support persons who commit serious offences; and
(b) increase public safety and security by the
disestablishment of the associations; and
(c) deny to persons who commit serious offences the
assistance and support gained from association with
other persons who participate in the affairs of the
(2) The objects are to be achieved by—
(a) imposing significant terms of imprisonment for vicious
lawless associates who commit declared offences; and
(b) removing the possibility of parole for vicious lawless
associates serving terms of imprisonment except in
limited circumstances; and
(c) encouraging vicious lawless associates to cooperate
with law enforcement agencies in the investigation and
prosecution of serious criminal activity.
In this Act—
association means any of the following—
(a) a corporation;
(b) an unincorporated association;
(c) a club or league;
(d) any other group of 3 or more persons by whatever name
called, whether associated formally or informally and
whether the group is legal or illegal.
Blah, blah, blah. It goes on for a few more pages, so I thought I’d stop before you fell asleep.
Now, I don’t pretend to know the definition of a “serious offence”. I guess that there must be some legal definition as to which offences are “serious” and which ones you can get away with by saying “just joking, wasn’t serious”. Whatever, when we talk about those naughty bikies, it’s easy to drum some populist support for the legislation.
However, it’s unclear from my reading of the legislation exactly how one can determine which associations “encourage, foster or support persons who commit serious offences”. For example, it couldn’t be stretched to include unions in a picket line, could it?
And it clearly doesn’t mean lawyers, does it? Because they “support persons” who are accused of committing serious offences by representing them in court. On a quick reading I didn’t see an an exception for lawyers and the word there is “or” not “and”.
Or could it mean the Business Council, if one of their members is found guilty of an offence?
Yes, I doubt it. Because as the legislation says toward the end:
“10 Regulation-making power
The Governor in Council may make regulations declaring
offences for the purposes of this Act.”
Correct me if I’m wrong, anyone with better legal knowledge, but that sounds suspiciously like we, the government, can declare which offences are covered by the term “serious offence”.
Yes, I know we’re a long way from Nazi Germany, and that only Hitler was Hitler. The Queensland Government isn’t about to start locking up its policital opponents. We’re a democracy, after all. Still, so was Nazi Germany until it started introducing laws like this one.
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