Queensland a tough place for Easy Riders
I’ve always had a fascination with motorcycles for as long as I can remember.
For me, nothing came close to the acceleration and that sense of being part of the machine.
As a medical student, motorcycling also provided me with very affordable transportation and the convenience of parking wherever my bike would squeeze.
I’ve made some great friends over the years through owning a bike and I’ve always enjoyed the mateship of going on “a ride” with friends on a Sunday afternoon.
My love affair with bikes was tested by stints in the Emergency Department and orthopaedic wards, where frequently it was a collision with a car that brought the rider to hospital.
I remember very fondly my registrar in the children’s surgical ward offering to take the kids for a ride on his motorbike around the hospital (before the paranoia of workplace health and safety rules), and actually doing it!
He’s now a prominent surgeon who still rides a bike.
There were those, of course, who rode bikes for a different sort of kinship, in what we now call outlaw motorcycle gangs.
Extortion, violence and all sorts of criminality never seem to be too far away from that group.
But I should point out that our politicians also aren’t above the law – my own ex-Queensland Health Minister Gordon Nuttall is still in jail.
In the past 25 years, seven other Queensland cabinet ministers have gone to jail for crimes like misappropriation of public funds, extortion and child sex offences.
While they were all elected representatives, none were bikies and three were Health Ministers.
After some very prominent public acts of violence, culminating in a bikie brawl at Broadbeach and a besieged police station at Surfers Paradise, the Queensland Government enacted the so-called VLAD law.
It is an unfortunate acronym because the other Vlad (aka Dracula) was a Romanian medieval tyrant known for impaling his opponents.
In Queensland “VLAD” stands for the Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment Bill (2013).
It’s an interesting piece of legislation because, for the first time in my memory, you can be convicted of a crime because of who you are, rather than because of what you’ve done.
And, in another twist, it’s also up to the defendant to prove that they are not an office bearer of the organization, rather than the onus being on the prosecution to prove that they are.
And don’t think you’ll just get a slap on the wrists for having a beer with your mates at the Yandina pub, because the penalty can be up to 25 years imprisonment.
Some very prominent legal figures have expressed concern about the legislation, including its architect and Solicitor-General Walter Sofronoff QC, who has since resigned in protest.
The political storm shows no sign of calming, with a torrent of current and former legal luminaries such as Tony Fitzgerald QC expressing concern about the recent appointment of Tim Carmody as Queensland’s Chief Justice.
With nowhere to hide from what is another classic chapter in Queensland’s political history, I decided to pay a visit to my local Harley Davidson dealership to see what all the fuss was about.
It was airy and spacious, and my first impression was that it was a retail clothing outlet with a few bikes dotted around as props.
The staff were chatty and courteous, and most of the customers were mums and dads just like me.
In pride of place was a replica of Peter Fonda’s Harley from the movie Easy Rider.
It’s been 45 years since that Harley thundered across the screen to introduce a whole generation to cocaine, LSD and free-love in mainstream movies.
Technology has moved along since the Captain America bike hit the road, with some noticeable components missing.
For starters, there are no indicators or instruments. Also, there’s no front brake, and no suspension on the rear of the rigid frame.
The pillion passenger (in the film, Jack Nicholson) did need to keep his right foot off the peg which sat below the swept up exhaust.
But if you wear a football helmet when you ride you won’t notice a third degree burn on your calf.
While I felt quite at home at the Harley dealership, I should not neglect to mention that the local chapter of an outlaw motorcycle gang had had its “clubhouse” in an industrial estate only 500 metres away.
But that’s not there anymore since it became illegal in Queensland for three or more members to meet.
Captain America – Harley Davidson Hydra-Glide 1949-1952
For: Patriotic paint job.
Against: Not too good at stopping.
This bike would suit: Queensland cabinet ministers with a stash of money who need to make a fast getaway.
73.66 cubic inch twin cylinder petrol (1207 cc)
8.0:1 compression ratio
4 speed manual
PS: There was a secret compartment hidden in the fuel tank where Peter Fonda hid the cash.
Doctor Clive Fraser