Statues Amendment (Decriminilisation of Sex Work) Bill

Extract from Hansard - House of Assembly 25 September 2019

I rise to speak today on the Statutes Amendment (Decriminalisation of Sex Work) Bill 2018. Back in 2016, when this was last proposed, I did extensive surveying and researching not only in my electorate but also statewide. I conducted an online Survey Monkey questionnaire that around 1,000 people contributed to—several hundred being constituents of mine, so they are the ones that I have paid the most attention to. Broadly, from those I represent, around 82 per cent were supportive of decriminalisation of the sex work industry.

There were three main areas of concern, if we did decriminalise, where they wanted to put in place safeguards: ownership, so who could own brothels; where the brothels might be; and street solicitation was also of great concern. There was widespread acceptance that decriminalisation was better for the safety of the workers so that they would have access to police and be in a better position. In contrast, the safety of girls who are street workers or who work on the streets would be in contradiction to that. There were also concerns raised regarding advertising, but I believe they have already been dealt with with amendments in the upper house, which I will briefly refer to.

In the Legislative Council, amendments were passed that will require a review of the legislation after three years. They now have police search powers, a ban on advertising, assistance from the minister for sex workers who want to leave the industry and a ban on children working in a brothel. So several safeguards have already been put in place; however, there are others that I am considering. I have had amendments drafted—I had them drafted back in 2016, in fact—specifically relating to ownership, who could own a brothel.

In speaking to parliamentary counsel, their advice was that there already exists a negative licensing scheme that is used for tattoo parlours, second-hand dealers and hydroponics. That is a relatively inexpensive way of licensing and it is fairly simple to bring in because it already exists. There are two components to this: firstly, you are automatically disqualified on the basis of certain grounds, such as criminality or being a member or an associated member of a prescribed criminal organisation, as defined by the Serious and Organised Crime (Control) Act. So, if somebody attempted to open a brothel that is relevant under that act, they would be automatically disqualified. They cannot operate a brothel and there would be up to four years' imprisonment or a $250,000 fine for a corporation. I believe that that would be one way to address this.

There are other amendments being put forward by other members in this house that I would also consider, but this was the recommendation I was given as a fairly simple way of bringing that in, which already exists and is commonplace with other industries. I think that would satisfy the concerns of my constituents. There were concerns around location, and maybe I will deal with them second.

Street solicitation was broadly unsupported for several reasons but, firstly, for the safety of workers, because getting into a car with an unknown person is considered unsafe. Also, with changes in technology, it is not necessary because nowadays everybody has a mobile phone, internet or other ways of communicating. There are certainly lots of massage parlours and different ways, such as street frontages, that do not require a person to be put in any further danger.

I heard concerns from people I took on tours of Parliament House. Mothers and daughters, even a grandmother, were concerned about solicitation being legal because, while sitting at bus stops, they had already had people yell out inappropriate comments about whether they might have been sex workers. This was on Churchill Road and Regency Road in my electorate. Even a letterboxer who was handing out campaign materials in Enfield was approached for sex.

So I think if we know that it is definitely illegal, then it would be easier to prosecute and there would be less likelihood of women being approached on the street. I was actually quite surprised to hear from men who said they also find it very confronting and uncomfortable to be approached by a woman on the street. On the basis that there is not really any need for it and I think that my residents are particularly uncomfortable with the idea of street solicitation, I have drafted amendments that would maintain that as being illegal.

There is also the idea of location. If solicitation is already illegal, we do not need to worry about where it is happening. Amendments have also been drafted by the Attorney-General, I believe, regarding location. As stated in the paper on the weekend, in the city area it would be 50 metres from schools, churches, preschools (there was a range) and 200 metres in the suburbs. My understanding is that the definition of a 'brothel' would be four or more workers, so it would only limit the larger brothels.

As principals I have met with at the schools have said, it is highly likely that they are mothers of children at the school. They are local people; they are part of our community—of course they are. It is going on already. You are walking past houses right now that are not offensive to anybody. Nobody even knows what is happening. There is no risk in that continuing, so I do not see any need to really restrict locations unless it is a larger facility.

It should be subject to the same business laws. I started a business from home. I had to get permission from the Prospect council, and there were restrictions over car parking, how many people and hours you can work. There already are laws around those things if you are starting a business from home. If you are a larger business starting on a main road, there are already restrictions. Again, I know that when I started a business on North Terrace I had to go through all the planning approvals from the Adelaide city council. I had to have fire safety, air-conditioning, electricity and building approvals. There were endless approvals that any business would be subject to.

In summarising, broadly my electorate was in support of decriminalisation. This is an occupation that people would say is the oldest occupation in the world. It goes on. How can we make it safer? What safeguards can we put in place? That is my proposal.