Western Australia is set to legalise prostitution in a bid to improve health standards and keep brothels out of residential areas.
Hundreds of suburban brothels are expected to close when WA Attorney-General Christian Porter ends decades of turning a blind eye
and starts regulating the sex industry next year.
Prostitution is illegal in WA but police rarely lay charges unless they are related to underage sex or unsafe practices.
After nearly two years in power Porter says he is working to
release a paper for public comment by the end of the year and introduce legislation into parliament in 2011.
Under the new legislation, brothels will be licensed and confined to designated commercial and industrial areas, and police will be given
powers to investigate and forcibly close those which fail to comply.
Sex businesses will need to follow health and safety standards to obtain and maintain their licences. Individual sex workers will need to register with a central agency and will
undergo compulsory health and blood checks. They may also be required to carry ID cards.
Porter said suburban operators would be given a grace period from next year to either close or move to a licensed area. Applications for brothels would first
be put to local councils and then assessed by state regulators.
WA brothel madams welcomed the move over the weekend but feared the bid to register individual prostitutes would drive some underground. While most agreed the new regulations would
improve health and safety in the industry, they said some sex workers would be loathe to have their personal records on file.
Prostitution laws in the Australian Capital Territory (Canberra) will be reviewed for the first time since being introduced 18 years ago.
The review has been partially prompted by a letter from a coroner who conducted the inquest into the death of
17-year-old Janine Cameron who was found dead in a Fyshwick brothel two years ago.
Attorney General Simon Corbell says the coroner's comments will form part of the terms of reference for the review: Whilst the coroner made no
adverse findings in relation to that matter, the coroner has drawn to my attention his view that it would be worthwhile for the Government to look at the issue of proof of age and to make sure people working in brothels were requiring a higher level of
proof age and identity before they commenced work.
Corbell says the Government remains committed to a regulated sex industry: It's a good thing. It keeps it out in the open. It keeps it public and transparent and it
stops black market and illegal activities occurring within the industry.
But there are I think areas for some potential improvement. Those include issues potentially around proof of age to make sure people who are
working in the industry are appropriately demonstrating that they are 18 years or older.
There may be other issues arising as well that stakeholders want to express a view on and this review will allow that to occur.
The Government will move a motion in the Legislative Assembly next month referring the Prostitution Act 1992 to a committee.
The Opposition has welcomed the move. Shadow attorney general Vicki Dunne said: There
have been issues raised as to whether or not individual sex workers should have registration, compliance inspections and the level of police activity around brothels in the ACT and what developments there may have been both interstate and overseas that
have moved on public discussion about the regulation of prostitution.
Legislative Assembly Member Christian Porter is confident the drafted prostitution reforms will be able to completely eradicate prostitution in Western Australia suburbs.
The reforms, which Porter expects to go back before Parliament in the first
half of the year, would see brothels banned from all residential areas and be only allowed to operate within industrial zones.
Under the reform, police would be given more power to shut down brothels operating illegally within suburban areas.
Porter said he was hopeful the reform would reduce the amount of customers to brothels:
One part of the legislation is that, where there is an unlawful brothel, we would target not only the prostitutes who
are unlawfully operating and the owners who are unlawfully operating, but we would also target customers with criminal penalty infringement notices for first offences and then prosecutions after that, so we're targeting all of them.
However, Porter said regardless of what measures were taken, prostitution could not be eradicated completely, which was why reforms such as this were needed to be put into place.
Brothels in WA
have always existed and are likely to always exist despite our best efforts and the fact is that at the moment, prostitution is in effect illegal, but we still have brothels.
What we have to do is corral them into
areas where they cause the least amount of damage and destruction to average, law-abiding West Australians. We're going to mean business in the suburbs.
Sex work is legal in the state of Victoria (of which Melbourne is the capital) and that this legality has well-researched public health benefits.
In order to be legal sex work, sex workers must be
consenting and over the age of 18. In Victoria (other Australian states have different laws), legal sex work takes place in licensed brothels or through licensed escort agencies. Independent sex workers can work legally outside a brothel or agency, but
they must have a small business permit. Street-based sex work does occur, but is not legal.
Here are a few things I've learned about legalizing sex work.
Legalizing sex work reduces STIs for sex workers and, by extension, their clients.
Legalizing sex work reduces, but does not eliminate, stigma and discrimination.
Getting input from sex workers themselves drives positive outcomes [such as improved distribution of information and support for the police to combat trafficking and coercion].
A South Australian Labor MP has launched another bid to decriminalise prostitution, the latest in a handful of attempts to reform sex worker laws over the past 30 years.
Steph Key will later this year introduce a bill to decriminalise all forms of
prostitution, including home or brothel-based sex work, escort services and street work.
It will also ban minors from being involved in the industry and will prevent brothels being established within 200 metres of schools, any centres for children
and places of worship. It seems to be an appropriate time to put the reform of our sex industry in SA back on the legislative agenda, Ms Key said. She said there had been five attempts to introduce reforms over the past three decades, the last
being voted down in 2001.
But Christian nutters of FamilyVoice Australia said there had actually been six attempts to decriminalise brothels since 1979, with each attempt failing once MPs realised the implications of the changes. Steph Key's
latest attempt to decriminalise brothels is worse than any of the previous six, FamilyVoice researcher Ros Phillips said: One of its disastrous features would allow three prostitutes to operate a brothel next to suburban homes without any controls
by government or police.
Supporting Ms Key's bill, about 50 sex workers and their supporters rallied on the steps of parliament house in Adelaide on Thursday and presented the MP with a 2000-signature petition backing law reform.
Industry Network manager Ari Reid said sex workers in South Australia were still treated like second-class citizens: Decriminalisation isn't about putting a brothel on every corner. It's about providing basic workplace rights and protection for
hard-working South Australians.
Western Australia Attorney General Christian Porter said that under the new Prostitution Bill 2011, brothels would be banned from suburban areas.
Limited prostitution in non-suburban residential areas would be licensed and monitored.
Government will also create an exit fund for prostitutes seeking to leave the industry.
Attorney General Christian Porter said the Bill had been carefully developed after the release of a draft for community consultation earlier this year.
Prostitution is a controversial issue for any Government to address. Overwhelmingly though, ordinary West Australians do not want prostitution businesses of any size near their homes, in their residential
suburbs or near their children's school.
Update: A Dangerous Step Backwards for Health Promotion
The Australian Sex Party has called the WA Prostitution Bill a dangerous step backwards in health promotion. The 2011 Bill, introduced into WA Parliament by Attorney General Christian Porter last week, was developed without proper consultation
with sex workers or sex worker organisations, and acts in direct opposition to the health safety, and best interests of sex workers.
Sex Party Candidate Zahra Stardust says This Bill will severely increase sex workers'
likelihood of harassment, vilification and imprisonment and decrease their access to health and support services .
The Bill bans sex work in residential or suburban areas and prohibits escort agencies, forcing sex workers into
brothels. The Bill then requires sex workers to disclose their legal names in the workplace, meaning that sex workers are singled out for surveillance, restricting their opportunities for employment and further education and introducing bias in custody
cases. The WA Bill criminalises the clients of sex workers, despite international evidence that this has severe consequences on the safety of sex workers themselves. The Bill criminalises all street-based sex workers, despite no evidence that they cause
adverse societal impact.
The Bill increases police power, despite the finding of the Woods Royal Commission that systemic corruption and misuse of personal information is rife when police act as sex industry regulators. Ms
Stardust says, Police powers to issue move-on notices, stop, detain and search anyone on suspicion that they have breached the law, and to order invasive cavity searches of sex workers, mean that sex workers will be unlikely to seek police assistance
in the event of a crime.
She continues, The Bill will be disastrous for sex workers occupational health and safety and industrial rights, as an unlicensed sex worker under the Bill is expressly excluded from accessing
Workers' Compensation. The Bill also prohibits advertising for any staff relating to sex work services, preventing sex workers from advertising for drivers, receptionists or security. This will clearly present obstacles to sex workers' health, safety and
access to support.'
Further, the Bill criminalises all migrant sex workers, providing that a licence can only be issued to an Australian citizen or permanent resident. This means that sex workers on student or temporary visas are
immediately rendered illegal, subject to heavy penalties, experience reduced access to health services, are denied access to peer education programs and are increasingly marginalised. The Bill introduces heavy penalties (up to 3 years imprisonment) and
fines (up to $50,000) for non-compliance.
Low rates of STIs and HIV among sex workers illustrate that sex workers are highly aware of safer sex practices and are skilled at negotiating and managing risks. The recent Law and Sexual
Health (LASH) study in Western Australia by the Kirby Institute states that health promotion for the sex industry is much easier when the target group is not covert and is working without the daily fear of a criminal prosecution. Similarly, the World
Health Organisation acknowledges that 'Legislation criminalising prostitution-related activities has frequently been identified as a barrier to the promotion of safer sex practices'.'
Sydney's Stiletto brothel has won an appeal for permission to expand and become Australia's largest.
Plans to double the number of rooms to 40 were refused last year by the city council. But the owners won an appeal to the Land and
Environment Court this week, with Commissioner Susan O'Neill ruling the Aus$12 million ($12.2 million) development, including a wing for group bookings, should go ahead. O'Neill said:
The issue of a moral objection to
the nature of the activities of a sex premises were raised by some of the public submissions and resident objectors.
As a sex premises is a legal land use and permissible... with consent, moral objections to the proposal are not
Stiletto promotes itself as the world's finest short-stay boutique hotel and Sydney brothel . Its standard hourly rate of Aus$370 includes room, lady of choice and beverages.
An appeals court in Queensland has ruled that hotel and motel owners do not have the right to turn away escorts because of their profession.
The working girl who filed the lawsuit and who goes by the name GK sued a hotel who turned her away
in 2010 after discovering his profession. Originally a local court ruled that the hotel did nothing wrong, but an appeals court has now overturned that ruling.
The incident occurred at the 3.5-star Drovers Rest Motel after GK had stayed at Drovers
Rest Motel 17 times over a two year period. Hotel officials turned her away after discovering that she was a sex worker.
Unfortunately for the hotel, Australia has legalized escort services and sex workers can not be discriminated against because
of their job. By turning away GK the motel according to the appeals court acted in a discriminatory manner based on her profession.
Laws to decriminalise prostitution in South Australia have been defeated by one vote in State Parliament.
But the absence of eight MPs from the chamber at the time has prompted calls for the vote to be taken again and changes to the parliamentary
system to give MPs more notice of conscience votes.
Labor MP Steph Key's Private Member's Bill would have decriminalised all forms of prostitution, including at home, in brothels, escort services and some street work, but retained soliciting as an
offence where it occurred in the presence of other people.
But in a vote in Parliament's Lower House yesterday the proposed laws were defeated 20 votes to 19. 8 MPs were missing from the chamber, including two who were locked out after they failed
to get there in time.
Ms Key said she would seek advice on whether she could recommit the legislation to another vote at a later date when all or more MPs were present. She said:
There were a couple of people
that were caught outside for some reason and they were going to be supporting the Bill. And there were a number of people that were paired (out of the chamber) today that support the Bill. So people are saying this isn't a real indication (of the level
of support for the laws).
Another bid will be made to decriminalise prostitution in South Australia. Labor MP Steph Key will introduce new laws to parliament next week to decriminalise all forms of sex work.
The new bill will require owners of brothels to register their
business with consumer and business services to allow for more regulatory controls. Ms Key said sex workers would be required to go through the same planning approvals as other businesses.
With MPs to be given a conscience vote, she believes the
legislation will pass this time after her previous attempt in November last year was rejected.
But Family First MP Dennis Hood said the legislation was being brought back to parliament just 12 sitting days after it was voted down. Hood claimed it
would be a waste of time to have another debate on the issue.
High demand in Canberra's fly-in fly-out sex industry proves the Australian territory's prostitution laws should not be tampered with.
That is the message from Australia's most experienced brothel madam, Mary-Anne Kenworthy, who will open a new
branch of her popular Langtrees brothel next week in Mitchell.
The 30-year industry veteran praised the ACT's laws on prostitution but called for better enforcement of health and safety regulations and further assistance for women to leave sex
She said demand continued to outstrip supply in the local sex industry, which resulted in as many as 20 women flying to Canberra each week to provide sexual services.
The new Mitchell brothel will feature seven luxury theme rooms,
including Arabian Nights and Fantasia decor, as well as a cocktail bar and AAA service . There will be six women available on weeknights and as many as 12 at the weekend.
I work in Perth with probably about 65 ladies a week, and 80 per
cent of those are fly-in, fly-out, Ms Kenworthy said. We'll have a lot of our Perth clientele who come to Canberra to work with government come and see us. I understand business is a lot more quiet when Parliament is not sitting.
Promising a complete guide to the sex industry, Ms Kenworthy called on parliamentarians to visit local brothels before travelling to Europe or Asia.
Australia's Northern Territory Parliament has voted to decriminalise sex work through the Sex Industry Bill 2019 . The Bill decriminalises brothels, soliciting and indoor sex work, and gives sex workers access to workplace health and safety protections
already extended to other workers in the state.
CEO of Scarlet Alliance, Jules Kim said :
This is a momentous day for all sex workers and sets a positive example that sex workers are valued members of the community,
deserving of rights and protections. We applaud the NT Government for listening to sex workers and the evidence in fully decriminalising sex work in the NT. Sex work is work and it is fantastic that it is finally being recognised as such. We hope that
these critical reforms will demonstrate the importance of best practice partnerships between sex workers and government and lead to similar campaigns for the decriminalisation of sex work in other states and territories throughout Australia.