Back in the 1980s and early 1990s Victorian Police often targeted gay venues, including sex on premises venues, SOPVs. A friend was at a sopv known as Club 80 in the late eighties when it was raided by police. For what reason, who knows. No one was charged that he knew of. Each person's details were recorded, including my friend who's name was John Smith, well, so far as the police knew. He was not the type to take crap and was very challenging and lippy with them.
But then came 1994 and the raid that stopped all subsequent raids on gay venues. Tasty nightclub was in the Commerce Building in Flinders Street. We went there once. It was a good and relaxed venue with a great vibe. It was a mix of gay people, lesbians, transgender, drag queens and very gay friendly straights. The only other place I have been that was so mixed and so friendly among the mix was the Builders Arms in Gertrude Street, Fitzroy. We knew what went on down below at Tasty, but we didn't venture down there, not for any reason other than we were there with friends and having a good time.
In August 1994 an absolute outrage occurred at Tasty when the police raided the venue. This was a raid to end all raids. Patrons were lined up against walls and strip searched within view of everyone. Some were detained for up to seven hours. A few illegal drug pills were found on the floor, which is remarkable considering there were around 460 people at the venue.
Imagine what it must have been like for a transgender to have to get naked in front of umpteen people. I'd be angry just by my night out being spoilt.
The Kennett state government had been elected only two years before and the police force thought they we in a very strong and powerful position after years of the Labor government. Police Commissioner of the time Neil Comrie certainly had the ear of Kennett's government and many excesses happened under his leadership.
Shortly after the event, a policewoman asked me for some directions. I gave her the information required, she said thanks, and I said to her, 'See, I can be nice, in spite of Tasty'. She just grimaced.
I had forgotten, but Ms Ann O'Dyne reminded me that the class action taken by many of the patrons against the police was run by lawyer Gary Singer who went on to become Deputy Lord Mayor of Melbourne.
One person I knew joined the action and received a payout of about $10,000. Unfortunately because they did not want to be outed or did not want it to be known that they were at the venue, many did not join in the class action. As it was, the bill for the government came to over ten million dollars. Rephrased, bad police behaviour cost Victorian taxpayers ten million dollars.
There is no doubt in my mind that pure homophobia provoked the raid. The patrons were just out to have a good night, like they had many times before. They did not deserve to be detained or publicly humiliated by being strip searched. The Kennett years were a very bad period in Victoria's history.
And I will slap the first person who says, Kennett had to do what he did as the state was broke. Victoria was never broke.