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Bikies ride under the radar



BIKIE gangs have a bad reputation in other Australian states.

Events such as the 1984 Milperra Massacre, airport bashings and drive-by shootings have resulted in a number of state governments attempting to introduce anti-association laws.

In Tasmania, the motorcycle clubs have worked very hard to soften their image, with up to 8000 motorcyclists participating in events such as the annual Toy Run for charity.

However, the smashing of a drug trafficking operation in Launceston last week has rekindled doubts about some of their activities.

There are six main motorcycle clubs in Tasmania with an estimated 250 members in about 13 chapters.

Police believe there are about 13 clubhouses with another five unofficial centres.

Most are divisions or chapters of interstate clubs.

While there are riding clubs such as the Ulysses club in each region and the Motorcycle Riders Association, it is the groups that wear patches and are known as "one per centers" or "outlaw clubs" that draw police attention.

The club at the centre of last week's drug charges The Rebels have clubhouses in North Hobart, Sorell and at Kings Meadows in Launceston.

It is believed The Rebels also have a licenced bar at Ulverstone.

One of the biggest clubs is the Satan's Riders in Launceston which has a clubhouse and a licenced bar The Handle Bar in Frederick St.

The incorporated club's director is 60-year-old Stephen Palmer, of Prospect Vale. The club hires out its premises for 21st birthday parties and functions.

The Outlaws also have members in Launceston and premises at Ulverstone.

Smaller clubs include the Launceston-based Devil's Henchmen, the newly established Finks at Penguin on the North-West Coast, and the Black Uhlans with a small number of riders based at East Devonport.

Vietnam veterans have a club and there are three regional chapters of the Ulysses club with their "grow old disgracefully" slogan.

Club associates contacted by the Sunday Tasmanian were reluctant to divulge details of their activities.

When asked, they refused to name presidents, the number of members and their activities.

Devil's Henchmen member and tattoo parlour owner Avery Harwood would not talk about his club.

Likewise, Rebels state president Sean Kelly would not comment about the future of the club.

"Nothing to say," he said,

Sources believe that club's Launceston operations have virtually ceased since the drug bust.

An associate of the Satan's Riders, Al Higgins, said it was not his place to talk about the club or its membership.

He passed on the Sunday Tasmanian's request for information to senior club members but no one phoned back.

Sources say the recent drug bust, where 12 people were charged over trafficking $450,000 worth of amphetamines, is unusual.

"The clubs do everything they can to stay under the radar but when you scratch below the surface most of them have some involvement with drugs," the source said.

In 2009, an Australian Crime Commission joint committee took evidence on Tasmanian motorcycle gangs.

Then Tasmania Police acting commissioner Darren Hine, now Commissioner, told the committee there were five identified outlaw groups with about 200 members.

He said anti-fortification legislation had been enacted in 2007 because clubhouses often had fortified their premises.

"That has not been operationally acted upon at this stage but it is another avenue that we can call on in terms of some premises," Commissioner Hine said.

"We are certainly not suggesting anything that detracts from general property security.

"Some of these premises, even in residential areas, have all the windows removed and steel plates bolted in their place."

"In relation to the fortification issue, as I have said, there are probably two that I am aware of that arguably are fortified.

"And yes, I agree that we have not actually gone to the step of approaching a magistrate yet in relation to either of those premises.

"But it is something that is under consideration."

Commissioner Hine said Tasmanian clubs tended to affiliate with each other better than interstate groups. "The mainland groups are very alienated from each other and have an attitude that is quite different and destructive to the groups," he said.

"Here, from time to time, members change groups and they also work with each other.

"Therefore that level of violence does not occur."

The committee heard that outlaw club riders ride American bikes such as Harley-Davidsons and frown on Japanese bikes such as Hondas and Yamahas.

The deaths of club members is one window into their world where tough bikies vent via death notices.

Clubs value loyalty and have a tribal culture.

In Launceston last year, 2500 people attended the funeral of a long-time Satan's Riders member and director Wayne "Waff" Badcock at the Albert Hall.

A huge cortege travelled from the Albert Hall to the Car Villa Crematorium, stopping traffic to let riders pass.

Motorcycle dealer Simon Hrycyszyn was quoted in a local newspaper saying Mr Badcock loved Harley-Davidson motorcycles and was family-orientated.

"Wayne was a leader of men, a mentor, one who could sort out differences, and did, between all sorts of people," Mr Badcock said.

"He was a very influential leader and president for 25 years."

Shaun Lennard, president of the Tasmanian Motorcycle Council, said his group represented most motorcycle clubs in the state in relationships with the government, the Motor Accident Insurance Board and other motorcycling and transport organisations.

"A number of patch clubs in Tasmania are among these members," Mr Lennard said.

"The TMC has no comment to make about any particular members of any club. [But] we are concerned about the possible flow-on when events such as this are reported."

Mr Lennard said the reporting of allegations or charges against a very small number of people in other states had resulted in everyone who rode a motorcycle being placed in the same category.

"What individuals might or might not do as individuals is their business and their responsibility that goes for all of us.

"So don't categorise all motorcyclists or indeed all members of patch clubs by the reported events of this week."


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