Rainbow Report on The Law

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The Law, carrying the sword and scales of Justice. pic by Rob Sg

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The Law can mean one of two things: it can mean the body of rules and regulation by which our society is managed and governed. But it can also be used in a slang sense to mean The Police. We’ll be looking at both these issues this week.

Your criminal record may automatically disqualify you for some jobs, especially government jobs that require security clearances, military jobs, positions with what they call ‘fiduciary responsibility’, such as insurance or banking, and jobs working with children.

But what if the conviction on your record is for an offence that isn’t an offence any more? That’s the position many older gay men find themselves in: to quote The Age

For an unknown number of older gay men, historical convictions for consensual sex continue to cast a shadow over their lives. Despite Victoria decriminalising gay sex in 1981, these men are still prevented from applying for some jobs, such as teaching, or taking on volunteering roles.

In December 2012 Clem Newton-Brown, Liberal MP for Prahran, told the Star Observer he had extremely strong support from his colleagues for a proposal to remove these old convictions from criminal records.

Newton Brown told the Star Observer he had been working on the issue for most of the year.

“It’s encouraging the attorney-general [Robert Clark] has sought a proposal from me, which will include what has been done in the UK, to come up with an options page,” he said.

The Prahran MP said while it was an important and symbolic gesture, it was also a practical solution for gay men.

Then last week at Pride March Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews announced that Labor, if elected, would also wipe these obsolete convictions.

Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews said it was time to right a wrong and remove the black mark of a conviction for a crime that was taken off the statute books more than 30 years ago.

Mr Andrews promised he would pursue the change if Labor wins the state election.

“We’ll waste no time on this,” Mr Andrews told reporters at the march.

Rolf Forster chose to ride helmetless at Pride: and was fined. But other road rules were ignored by police.

Rolf Forster chose to ride helmetless at Pride: and was fined. But other road rules were ignored by police.

Daniel Andrews and Clem Newton-Brown join me on this week’s show. With bipartisan support, it shouldn’t be too hard to get this done. But the devil will be in the details: the UK procedure which inspired our politicians is complex and onerous. Can we Keep It Simple?

Health Minister David Davis said the government was working through proposals to achieve expungement of former convictions.

If you were at the Pride March you may not have been aware of an argument between the Traffic Police and some of the men and women on motor bikes. Senior Sergeant Helen Poke of Port Phillip Traffic decided to fine any motorcyclists in the parade not wearing helmets, and “remove them from the parade” .

The Dykes on Bikes co-operated, after a fashion – you’ll hear how from their President Chrissy – but were seething at the police interference. Two of the men’s group, the Motorcycle Tourers, decided to make a stand.

Rolf Forster was one of those who rode without a helmet, and was fined, and he joins us to explain what happened, and why he won’t be paying up.

Victoria Police have been invited to provide a spokesperson: we’ll keep our fingers crossed and hope they do.

Rod Swift will be my co-host this week.

As always, the show airs 7-8pm Thursday evening on Joy 94.9 Melbourne. Click on the link to listen online anywhere in the world via the web, or to download the FREE smartphone app. Any comments, questions during the show, email me or SMS 0427 JOY 949.

All other times, email the show.

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About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years. "Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe." (Daniel Witthaus, "Beyond Priscilla", Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)