Tattooists 'treated like criminals' under new laws

South Coast tattoo artists have criticised new licensing legislation, saying it operates on a  ‘‘guilty until proven innocent’’ basis.

The  legislation requires them to submit to police background checks, supply fingerprints and pay fees ranging from $699 for an individual to $2094 for a business.

Operators must disclose ‘‘close associates’’ of the business who are also subject to a police background check.

NSW Police Minister Michael Gallacher said the laws targeted organised crime.

“The new licensing requirements highlight the NSW government’s commitment to stamp out organised crime and outlaw motorcycle gang links to the tattoo industry,” he said. 

The laws give police and Fair Trading officers the ability to search licensed parlours without a warrant.

Matt Rogers of Iron Anvil Ink Nowra said the law criminalised tattoo artists.

 ‘‘By making us prove we don’t have criminal backgrounds or links to bikie gangs the laws treat us like we’re guilty until proven innocent,’’ he said.

He was particularly troubled by the ‘‘close associate’’ clause.

 ‘‘You’d be hard pressed to find a tattoo artist who hasn’t met a bikie back in the day,’’ he said.

‘‘Bikers come through shops all the time; they’re a massive customer base and tattoo artists should be able to tattoo anyone without being scared to lose their licence.’’

NSW Fair Trading confirmed that it had approved just four out of 18 individual applicants from a region between Nowra and Thirroul with the other 14 applications still pending.

 All 10 applications from existing businesses in the region were still awaiting approval.

Wayne Cartwright has owned Soul Expression in Thirroul for 17 years.

He applied for a licence in September last year but is among the 700 applicants statewide who have yet to learn if they’ve  been approved.

He is confident he’ll be approved but said it was disconcerting not knowing the fate of his business.

Both Mr Rogers and Mr Cartwright said the law failed to combat the rise of backyard tattoo artists or  ‘‘scratchers’’ and did nothing to address health issues. 

Mr Cartwright said it was  ‘‘getting easier for backyard scratchers to make a living and getting harder for us’’.

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