Chris Seage, former consultant to the NSW s-x industry and owner of Brothel Busters|
Sep 25, 2012 12:03PM |EMAIL|PRINT
Barry O’Farrell, with the announcement of new reforms, has sent a clear message to the NSW sex industry, writes Chris Seage. Sydney will no longer be the Amsterdam of the South Pacific.
Sydney will no longer be the Amsterdam of the South Pacific after Barry O’Farrell sent a clear message to the NSW sex industry that major reform is on the way.
In the darkness of night, the government late last week placed on its website three options it is considering in transforming the industry from an unregulated rabble — where the illegal industry is four times the size of the legal one — to best practice in Australia. It has provided interested stakeholders just two weeks to respond to the extensive issues paper.
In presenting the three options, the government said the objectives of the proposed regulatory system are the protection of residential amenity, protection of sex workers and safeguarding public health. The reform will not just apply to brothels but any sex services premises that are defined as premises where sex work occurs habitually, which means strip clubs, street workers and escort agencies will also be under the spotlight. The issues paper identified the options as:
Option 1: improve the current regulatory system, including improving decision-making in planning for sex services premises and improving the sharing of information between NSW regulators. This option might equally be relevant for adoption as part of registration and licensing options.
Option 2: introduce a registration system for owners and operators of commercial sex services premises. The register could be maintained by a community-based peer outreach body or by a government agency.
Option 3: introduce a licensing system for owners and operators of commercial sex services premises. The licensing authority, in determining suitability for a licence, would consider: whether the applicant is a fit and proper person; whether it is in the public interest for the licence to be granted; and whether appropriate arrangements have been made to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of sex workers and clients.
Crikey understands the government prefers option three. Indeed, three weeks ago News Ltd ran a story referring to a new Brothel Licensing Authority, taking the regulation away from local councils and a strict vetting process for brothel owners along with quotes from Special Minister for State Chris Hartcher, who has ministerial responsibility for the reforms.
The new reforms mirror what I proposed in Crikey three years ago about how I would reform the industry, including the establishment of a brothel licencing authority, probity checks for owners and taking the regulation away from councils. I have told Crikey readers for years that councils were not up to the task of regulating the underbelly of the shonks involved in the industry and it looks like a whole new enforcement arm will be attached to the new authority.
I am pleased to see that safeguarding public health is at the forefront of the new reforms. In January I released my Dens of Decadence report into the prevalence of grubby pr-stitutes supplying oral sex without a condom. In 2009 I reported that 264 pr-stitutes were advertising this service. Three years later in January I reported the number had increased to 507 and due to the lack of regulation this service continues to rise.
The Kirby Institute from the University of NSW released a few months ago its controversial report into the sex industry in NSW where it recommended to the government that a licencing regulatory system would not work, compelling councils to approve brothel applications particularly where street walkers ply their trade and the most controversial — allowing up to four pr-stitutes to work from a residential address. This is a disgraceful recommendation that will open the doors for brothels to be located in residential streets and near schools and churches.
The other area where this report is deficient is it has not included any reference to my research relating to the 507 prostitutes defying WorkCover and NSW Health guidelines by providing oral sex without a condom to clients. I provided the co-author of the report professor Basil Donovan with an executive summary and links to every one of the prostitutes’ explicit advertising. People can only speculate why?