Coming from a conservative Irish Catholic family and schooled by the Christian Brothers, I never thought I would one day be the public face of the NSW brothel industry.

As readers are aware I am a tax consultant who does a bit of writing for Crikey in my spare time. It was only six months ago that a solicitor asked me to represent two legal brothels in their disputes with the Australian Taxation Office. Having learnt a bit more about the adult industry in my representations, I wrote a couple of articles for Crikey (remember: Why tax sleuths are chasing girls in brothels) which seemed to spark some interest from the NSW Adult Business Association (ABA) in my capacity to act as a lobbyist for them. 

Why take on a job as the prostitute’s friend? As Crikey readers will be aware I have been critical of the ATO because it does not administer a level tax playing field. In this country our tax administration will bend for a big political party donor who had $75m wiped off his tax bill for alleged international tax avoidance, while the same administration on the same day persecuted a woman for renting out the back room of her house for a few extra bucks a week.

The other reason I took on the job was to effect change in the outdated NSW brothel laws. In Sydney we have seen a proliferation of illegal brothels in quiet suburbs. In Roseville, on the leafy north shore, we have one of our members who has to contend with two illegal brothels, one is two doors up from her while the other is about 150 metres away further up the Pacific Highway. The illegal workers have been seen trawling for business along the highway and near the train station, disrupting local businesses. One of the illegal operators shares adjoining doors with Dominos Pizza. Lovely. Walking out of the pizza shop with your family and being propositioned for s-x. Just look at yesterday’s Hornsby Advocate, which covers Sydney’s Upper North Shore region, to see how bad the problem is.

We need to follow Queensland where the legal industry is run by the Prostitution Licensing Authority under strict rules. It has also been successful in closing down the illegal industry.

So what sort of people own brothels? When I addressed the ABA membership last month I expected to see big Lebanese men, some white shoe types and probably some Asians. I was shocked to see that three-quarters of the audience were middle-aged Aussie women.

Most of them have owned other businesses before they bought a brothel. Some owned hotels, others caravan parks and milk bars. We have a few devoted Anthony Robbins fans and the lady who owns one of Sydney’s finest bordellos, La Petite Aroma in Chatswood, says: “My vision is to be the David Jones of brothels in Sydney.”

Peter Fray

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