Tattooing Industry Control Bill

Adjourned debate on second reading.

(Continued from 27 October 2015.)

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (16:29:43): I rise on behalf of the Greens today to speak to the Bill before us, the Tattooing Industry Control Bill 2015. In my contribution, I will refer to the many letters, phone calls and emails, as well as the other contacts my office has received from industry representatives and members of the industry, raising their concerns about the potential implications of this bill. I note that there have been several protests on the steps of Parliament House. Indeed, some of the members of those protests were also members of the ongoing protest against the Repat on the steps of this parliament.

Firstly, I would like to begin by outlining the scope of the Bill and what it says it seeks to achieve. This State Government, like the Rann State Government, as we know, has made a commitment to restrict and ban organised crime gangs and their associates in many ways in South Australia. In this particular Bill, it seeks to make a commitment to restrict and ban organised crime gangs and their associates from owning tattoo parlours, and it was part of an election campaign promise of the Weatherill Government.

It is more of the State Government's 'tough on crime' rhetoric. Certainly, I would ask the Government what other industries it intends to embrace with its tough on crime rhetoric and whether it has any intentions for further industries other than the tattoo industry to face similar legislation to the one that we see today. It says that it will do this for any industry that the Government believes has connections with organised crime gangs, and this particular Bill targets the tattoo industry.

It seems it is the Government's understanding that the tattoo industry is operating as some sort of base for illegal activities, such as drug trafficking and weapons trading, and poses a risk to the wellbeing and safety of businesses and community members. This bill seeks to ban associates of organised crime gangs from owning or running a tattoo parlour. The definition under this bill of a close associate includes close relatives, spouse, domestic partner, parent, brother or sister, or child, members of the same household, and those in partnership and certain other kinds of business relationships.

Under these provisions, a person is automatically and permanently disqualified from providing tattooing services if the person is deemed to be a close associate of a person who is a member of an organised crime gang. It is important to bring this definition up now in the contribution to this Bill, because the Greens believe it has the potential to capture innocent people working in a legitimate skilled industry.

The Bill grants the Commissioner for Consumer Affairs powers to disqualify persons from providing tattoo services where the commissioner believes, and I quote from the Bill:

…such action is appropriate for the purpose of averting, eliminating or minimising a risk, or a perceived risk, to the safety of members of the public;


…to allow the person to provide tattoo services or to continue to provide tattoo services, would otherwise not be in the public interest.

The Greens are concerned that this bill potentially has negative consequences for tattoo businesses and operators and owners who have done nothing wrong. The bill also grants an authorised officer powers to enter and search any premises, place or vehicle that the officer reasonably suspects is used for or is in connection with the provision of tattooing services. The officer under the bill is not required to obtain a warrant to enter and search these commercial premises.

I note that the member for Bragg, Vickie Chapman, in the other place, noted that inspectors can already enter premises in terms of workplace safety. I would just like to point out that OHS inspectors must obtain a permit before entering a workplace. What we are being asked to do in this bill is support changes where the minister—from the briefing that I have received and from the information that I have had from the industry, and certainly in my questions in the briefing—has not consulted with the industry. I would certainly put on the record that I asked the government representatives in the briefing whether or not any members of the tattooing industry had been consulted in the formulation of this bill, and I was told that they had not. Should the minister or his representative in this chamber wish to correct the record that that is not the case, I certainly invite them to do it in the second reading summary.

We have not been provided yet with any information or compelling evidence that suggests that the provisions in this bill are necessary for banning organised crime and that this bill is, indeed, an effective mechanism that will lead to a reduction in bikie-related organised crime. This is a bill which has more spin than substance. This is more tough on crime rhetoric without reason. This is a bill that the Greens are concerned about because of the precedent it sets. We are concerned that this bill will capture legitimate business owners—innocent people who may fall under the association definition but possibly have no contact with people engaging in an illegal activity.

I draw members' attention to another question that I asked in the briefing on this bill where a spouse can be defined as an associate. When I asked if that spouse was separated but not divorced, what the status of that person would be, I was not given a clear answer. Certainly, I was not given a guarantee that that person who was separated but not divorced would be able to free themselves of that associate definition, but clearly they would have made a decision not to be associated with the member of the organised motorcycle gang.

We are asked to support in this chamber with this bill more tough on crime rhetoric without evidence and substance. That is why the Law Society of South Australia opposes the bill before us. They do so for several reasons, and I certainly draw members' attention to the Law Society's submission for the benefit of this debate.

The society is concerned that the bill would prohibit someone from working in a legitimate business where there is no evidence of criminal activity and where the disqualifying feature is being a relative of a member (or associated to a member, I might add there, which is my editorial comment on the Law Society's submission). There is no requirement for the person who falls under the category of an associate to prove that they have had no contact with the person who was engaged in a criminal activity.

As the society notes, the focus should be on criminal activity, rather than presumption of criminal activity. The bill operates more on the presumption of criminal activity and a suspicion of criminal activity, rather than on evidence and proof. We should not have laws in this state that treat business owners and workers in an industry as though they are suspects or have potential links to criminal activity.

As I noted, my office has received many pieces of correspondence from tattoo industry operators and workers who believe that they are being treated as criminals. I put it to you that to have a piece of law that treats business owners and workers in an industry as criminals without proof, evidence or substance is something that this chamber should not be supporting.

The Greens, many in the industry and the Law Society are not convinced that we need this one-size-fits-all law. There may be, of course, and there no doubt is, some criminal activity in some tattoo parlours, but that does not give the state government the right to treat an entire industry, such as the tattoo industry, as a criminal industry. We are not convinced that we should be supporting this Bill before us that gives an authorised officer powers to enter a premises without a warrant and search that premises based on the fact that tattooing services are being provided on that premises.

What the Bill is likely to do is to actually add to the unemployment rate and burden on this state. I think the government should be ashamed of our current unemployment figures and should not be adding to it. It seems that the government forgets that this figure represents families, students, individuals and a community that is desperate for jobs, yet here we are in this bill being asked to add to that burden.

I met some of the potential victims of this bill when a staff member and I visited Adelaide Ink Wizards, which is located at Tea Tree Gully, on 11 November. We went there at the invitation of the owner who is, as I mentioned before, one of those members who has been identified by this government, who was involved in the Repat protest, and who has been accused by politicians without due process.

We had a tour of Ink Wizards led by one of the staff. The staff are, as they described themselves and I would concur with their description, a bunch of art geeks. We entered the premises and there was art on the walls and art for sale in plastic pouches, displaying their work. They were clearly talented artists. They were clearly committed to a life where they could use their artistic skills to make a living.

They have five full-time employees at that location. On that day, my staff member and I met Tom, Jeremy and Amy; Julian and Joseph also work there, and Joseph (whose nickname is House) I think may probably fall foul of these laws. He was the old schooler on the premises. He presented as a heavily-tattooed man who said to me that he had been a bikie once upon a time but that he had reformed his life, had cleaned up his act and, in fact, should he lose that employment at Adelaide Ink Wizards he would have no other option than to go on the dole.

The other workers on that premises were all under 30—'vibrant' I think is how the Premier would probably describe them should he meet them in a small bar in the city—energetic, engaged and enthusiastic. When I asked them if any of them had ridden a motorbike in their lives they said no. None of them owned a motorbike. In fact, there was no motorcycle paraphernalia that I could see.

They were self-described "art geeks". They had been trained in art and what they spoke to me about was the potential—because the owner of that premises where they had worked for many years would probably fall foul of this law—that they were probably all going to lose their jobs. Because they were employees there, they queried whether or not that would be defined as being an associate. Certainly they have been given no guarantees that that would be the case, and so even thoughts of buying out their boss and taking over those premises are very slight in terms of coming to fruition.

Tom, in particular, spoke to me about the need to move to Melbourne more than likely if that studio was to close. Can we really afford to lose more young people interstate? Can we afford not to support young artists, even if they are tattoo artists? That seems to be something that this Government is frowning upon, all the while talking up opportunities and vibrancies in this state for young people.

Tom spoke to me about how the industry has been cleaned up a lot. Certainly we know that there have been previous reforms through this parliament in recent years. He talked about the levels of transparency and the health department checks and the local council checks each year. He was concerned—and I think rightly so—that this bill may have a knock-on effect leading to backyard tattooing without the stringent safety and hygiene requirements.

The closure of Adelaide Ink Wizards would also have implications not just for those five staff who currently work there, but also for the neighbouring shops. The local deli next door, which does a trade from the customers of that shop, has expressed concern that it will also lose business should Adelaide Ink Wizards go under.

The challenge I put to members today, given the government has informed me in the briefing that it has not consulted with the tattoo industry, is for members of this council—opposition, government and crossbench—to take up the offer to visit the tattoo parlours and talk to those people who are possibly going to lose their job as a result of this legislation that we may well pass through this parliament.

I think tarring an entire industry with the brush of criminality is just a step too far. Yes, it might rate well, it might poll well, but is it putting people first, and is it putting the interests of young people first—like Tom, Amy and Jeremy, who I met that day—when you are probably going to be putting them out of a job?

I would like to see an informed debate from the government on this, and I would challenge the government. While they look to New South Wales and Queensland for leadership on this, then why have they reversed the operation? Why do they have a presumed guilt rather than a presumed innocence approach? Why have they taken an approach unlike New South Wales and Queensland where, in fact, people will have to seek exemptions from this where they will have to be opted out by the authorities rather than ruled in?

It seems to me that this Bill is ill crafted and certainly badly consulted upon based on rhetoric of fear, and I understand that, yes, this industry has had elements of criminality within it, but so has the racing industry, and I do not see the Government getting tough with them anytime soon. I wonder whether the government can also provide me with some answers to the following questions:

1.Could the Government indicate to this council, for the benefit of an informed debate, just how many tattoo parlours does it believe have links with organised crime in this state and just how many employees, workers and owners of tattoo parlours across this state do they believe will fall within the definitions of this bill that will preclude them from working in the industry?

2.Could the Government provide instances where powers and provisions in New South Wales and Queensland have led to a reduction in bikie-related organised crime?

3.Could the Government also provide cases where individual members of the community who were not engaged with an organised criminal gang in those states have been taken in for questioning?

4. Could the Government also provide us with a list of which tattoo parlours support this bill and which tattoo parlours were consulted in the drafting of this bill?

The Greens believe that we must balance our powers as a lawmaking body and as a regulatory body without unduly impinging on individual rights and liberties. We do not see that this bill makes anyone safer. We do have fears that this bill puts people out of work. We do have fears that it has not been well crafted; that it has not been properly consulted; and it is far too heavy‑handed.

The Government, of course, must act to prevent crime. It must not do so by presuming crime where there is none. With those few words the Greens look forward to the committee stage of this Bill, noting that the Liberal Opposition have indicated their support for it, and knowing that we will proceed through the debate in the coming sitting week.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. J.S.L. Dawkins.

Stay Connected

Sign Up to news and updates from Tammy.