Statutes Amendment Decriminalisation of Sex Work Bill

The SPEAKER: Beyond the second reading, I think you mean.

Ms SANDERSON: —beyond the second reading to committee—can be discussed and debated. We all know that the sex work industry is a profession that is considered to have been the earliest profession. Under the current laws of criminalisation, this work is still occurring, so clearly criminalisation and the laws that we are using have not stopped this profession. What we are looking at today is the decriminalisation of the industry, as occurs in New South Wales and New Zealand, which is all about the protection of the workers so that they can feel quite safe to report any incidents and go to police without any fear of arrest. The member for Ashford has held many, many forums over the 7½ years that I have been here, and possibly even before that, where members have had the opportunity to hear from sex workers in the industry about their views, their fears and what it is they would like achieved. I am confident that that is certainly the intention of the member bringing this bill forward: that it is all about the protection of the workers.

I have spoken to many people about this matter, including the Christian Lobby, who also agree with the decriminalisation of sex workers. However, they would prefer that then there was a criminal penalty for the users of the sex workers, as in the Swedish model. That is not the bill before us, so that is not something I can change this bill into becoming. The Christian Lobby has been sent a copy of my amendments and I feel that they were okay with those amendments, that I had done the best to satisfy all their concerns.

The way I work as a local member, particularly with conscience votes, is to try to find out the conscience of the 30,000 people (23,000 voters) who live in my electorate. What is their conscience? What are they thinking on this topic? So I put out a survey to my electorate, and that was also online. I had 910 respondents, which I think is very good. As most members would know, when you do surveying you do not get a high response rate, so many surveys that I have done I have done multiple times.

For example, on euthanasia, over 7½ years I would have sent that survey out electorate wide at least three or four times. I would have filing cabinet drawers full of responses on not only one question but on multiple questions, of which this is one. This question on the decriminalisation of sex work is also one I have asked multiple times. I am confident in the results and that the amendments that were put forward represent the views of the people I am here to represent. This is not about my personal opinion or what I want; it is about representing the people of Adelaide, as that is my role. There were three main questions that we surveyed, the first being:

What is your opinion regarding the proposed decriminalisation of sex work in South Australia, as occurs in New South Wales and New Zealand, noting that sex work is actually legalised in Victoria, Queensland, the ACT and the Northern Territory?

The response was that 84 per cent were in favour of decriminalisation and a further 5 per cent if there were further restrictions in place. I was fairly confident that 90 per cent were in favour, so that is why I am supporting the bill to go through to the committee stage in particular, to consider the amendments of any other members in this house as well.

Then there was a question of brothels. I note that in debate in the upper house there were discussions around limiting whether they could be near schools, churches or kindergartens. One of the members commented that that would pretty well block out the whole of Adelaide's CBD because we are a city of churches, after all. If you put a 200-metre limit, they would overlap. There would probably be nowhere. In fact, speaking to a school principal, I was quite surprised at her opinion. This was back when there was an issue with bikini girls in the city. Flyers were being put on cars and some people were calling for the industry to be shut down and moved away.

She made the comment that, for some of the students at her school, it was quite likely that it could be their mothers who worked there and it could be their fathers who used the service. She said that we are part of a community. Children all have parents and they all have jobs. She was of the view that we are part of a community and that we are part of a city where different things occur. Regarding the brothels, however, I felt that it was too difficult, and it did not get up in the upper house, to restrict them on the basis of metres or location. That was quite unworkable.

The results from my survey were that around 52 per cent were okay with permitting brothels and another 15 per cent were okay if further restrictions were put in place. After reading through the hundreds of comments that were posted on this survey—there was room for comments, which I found very useful—I discussed with parliamentary counsel two ways that I could further protect the public from brothels if they were worried about them; one was through advertising laws.

As with the issue with the bikini girls that flyers cannot be put on cars around the area, if children are walking to school in the city and they are walking past a brothel, there might be a business name but there certainly should not be a list of all services provided. It should not be very obvious what is going on in that area. We do not want billboards, and I do not think that either the users of the brothels nor the workers would like that kind of advertising anyway. I do not think it is in the best interests of anybody.

The second way we considered putting in further protections was to restrict the ownership of brothels to be similar to or the same as the laws for those who can own tattoo parlours. Criminal organisations cannot own them. We felt that was another way of protecting the workers. What we do not want is women being forced to work against their will, or people being brought in for citizenship from other countries and they are coerced into this work and intimidated by gangs or illegal groups. They are the two ways I have tried to satisfy the concerns regarding brothels.

The third question that was asked regarded sex workers soliciting on streets. This was quite unpopular, with only 33 per cent support among the 910 respondents, some of whom were outside my electorate. From further discussion, I have had comments from mothers saying, 'I don't want my children asking: what is that lady doing?' Elderly people, and people of all ages, said that they were being harassed at bus stops, being asked if they were sex workers, which we also do not want. I also think it is very unsafe for the sex workers to just get into random cars with strangers on the street. I do not think that that is necessary in this day and age. We have the internet, we have apps, we have so many other ways.

I was surprised that the Christian Lobby could name where all the brothels are; I did not know where they are. Without advertising, clearly many people know where this work is going on and there is no need for women to endanger themselves by putting themselves on the street. I was also surprised by feedback from men who felt harassed and accosted by women approaching them on the street. They do not want sex workers on the street either. My amendments maintain that as a criminal activity. I note particularly that I have had complaints from people on Hanson Road, and also Churchill Road in my electorate, that they have been approached while just delivering flyers on Churchill Road for letterboxing.

I do not feel that I want to live in a society where that happens. That is not acceptable. I do not want to make it even more acceptable by decriminalising sex work, which would then potentially mean that more men would assume that, if you are a female on a street, you could be a sex worker, and they then use that to harass. I hope that members who even intend to vote against this bill in the end will at least let it go through to the committee stage so that it can be debated fully and amended to be as safe as possible so that if it does go through at least, in my opinion, it will be the best version it can be.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. P. Caica.