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NSW

Sep 25, 2012

Barry O'Farrell gets tough with NSW brothels

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.

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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?

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10 comments

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10 thoughts on “Barry O’Farrell gets tough with NSW brothels

  1. Joseph Heller would have loved that little Catch22 – “The licensing authority, in determining suitability for a licence, would consider: whether the applicant is a fit and proper person”.
    Q1: Have you ever, or do you intend to run a brothel?
    A1: Yes? Clearly not a fit and proper person. Next please!

  2. @ Stevo, the Working Twistie – +1 – exactly.

    And with the diminution of licensed premises, through a loose application of the ‘fit and proper’ test, the trade risks being driven underground again, raising all of the problems associated with this.

    One wonders where this author is coming from too when he alludes to the workers ‘grubby’ because the punters request certain types of services. If he’s going to make some moral judgment about workers by using that adjective, then, he should, in the interests of fairness, have a go at the activity itself or the punter. Really.

  3. “In January I released my Dens of Decadence report into the prevalence of grubby pr-stitutes supplying oral sex without a condom.”

    “Dens of Decadence”? “Grubby prostitutes?” Haha, oh wait, my bad — I thought I was reading Crikey, not, like, y’know, a Miranda Devine column.

    “This is a disgraceful recommendation that will open the doors for brothels to be located in residential streets and near schools and churches.”

    Chruches?! Mein gott! Won’t somebody think of the parishioners, forced to shuffle past lewd Satanic tarts tempting them with eternal damnation?

  4. Pity this writer’s support for changes ignores all evidence that NSW sex workers are better at using health measures than the licensed ones in other states. Licensing and control drives services underground, increases corruption and limits good OHS practices in the increased illegal sectors.

  5. “The new reforms mirror what I proposed… about how I would reform the industry… I have told Crikey readers for years… I am pleased to see… In January I released my Dens of Decadence report… In 2009 I reported that… Three years later in January I reported… it has not included any reference to my research… I provided the co-author…”

    I note that you use the title “journalist” (your entry on LinkedIn). This doesn’t strike me as the article of a journalist.

    As for “underbelly of the shonks”, “Dens of Decadence”, “grubby pr-stitutes” and brothels near churches – what’s the undercurrent here? Is there some subtext to Brothel Busters’ work that you’re not making clear?

  6. I care Arty. Because these elected representatives both in power and opposition get paid even when their work product is garbage. Taxpayers are still picking up the tab for the growing interest on the cost of their continuing misgovernance! Edward James