VLAD laws made easy access for unqualified tattoo artists

AS Queensland's controversial "bikie" laws are set to be reviewed by a commission of inquiry later this year, our four-part special report looks into the impacts of the legislation since its introduction in 2013.

This is Part 2: The Economic Cost

QUEENSLAND tattooists claim the VLAD legislation has changed the culture of the industry and made it easy for unqualified amateurs to practice.

Australian Tattooists' Guild president Josh Roelink said the legislation had increased operating costs and shut down a number of studios.

The Tattoo Parlour Act 2013 forced all tattoo artists around the state to acquire a licence, but a licensed tattooists does not need any artistic ability, experience or qualification - they must be 18 years or older, an Australian citizen and not a "controlled person" (in association with a criminal organisation).

"Imagine a scenario where anyone with the money to obtain a licence, and could prove their identity, could apply for and receive an electrician's licence or a licence to perform surgery," Mr Roelink said.

"Tattooing is no different."

He said there had been other more subtle effects on the industry, such as artists now feeling under suspicion by the public of having criminal links.

"Most clients (from all walks of life) are stunned to hear that we have to have our finger and palm prints recorded by police in order to continue our career," he said.

"And many more now ask: is this studio run by outlaw bikers?"

The Queensland Parliament has received 59 applications for licensing, with only two being denied.

"The concept that most studios were owned and run by (bikie gangs) has surely been proven false by the mere fact that only a small percentage of the applications ... were unsuccessful," Mr Roelink said.

But the laws have changed the presence of bikies in tattoo parlours drastically.

On the Gold Coast alone, police raided 46 tattoo parlours in February this year and found no criminal links. One year earlier, 20 studios had bikie links.