Last week I hit the road; all the way to Canberra as I took our case to Parliament House. I was joined by two female Adult Business Association NSW representatives. “Don’t fly, we’ll drive you down and keep you company”, one of them said. How could I resist! We had appointments arranged with Peter Dutton, Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer and his counterpart on the opposition Joel Fitzgibbon, the shadow Assistant Treasurer.

Dutton was a late addition to the diary and only agreed at the last minute to see us. I think the fact I told him we were going to see Fitzgibbon was the clincher.
At stake is the future of the legal brothel industry in NSW. The ATO is attempting to make the brothels liable for the GST on the s-x providers’ payment.

Our trip coincided with the announcement that day by the Inspector-General of Taxation David Vos of a major review into the Tax Office’s Administration of GST Audits. The other issue is that the ATO is only auditing the legal industry that is already tax compliant. The illegal shonky operators are not being touched and we want a level tax playing field. The ABA presently has two private investigators investigating the whereabouts of illegal brothel operations in Sydney, the Central Coast and Newcastle.

The information being collated is to be put on a map and segregated by council and state boundaries. We will then see who the offending councils are as well as establishing what state seats they reside in. It will be sensational stuff and an embarrassment to those concerned. People in NSW are going to be staggered at how many illegal brothels there are in their neighbourhood. We will provide this information to the media and to the NSW and Federal Governments.

First up was Joel Fitzgibbon. We rehearsed our lines well in the car on the way down. We had a predetermined plan to explain our problems, but Fitzgibbon and his advisor Brendan Long quickly cut to the chase by wanting to talk about the solution to Model Four. I was astounded by how much they were across the issues and their genuine concern to want to help us as well as keep the tax man happy; a bit of give and take so to speak. I guess that’s why they’re politicians!

In the end we agreed to the formation of a taskforce with ATO and ABA representation and an independent chairperson. “Hope you’re not going to put this in your Crikey diary”, Fitzgibbon said with a grin. Just as I was about to reply the electronic bell inside the conference room went off summoning Fitzgibbon to the chamber for question time.

Next port of call was Dutton. As it was nearing question time I was greeted by his Chief of Staff Ruth Gibson and two of Mr Dutton’s advisors. They were very interested to learn of the ATO backflip and the lack of ATO consultation in major issues affecting the industry. In the end both Dutton and Fitzgibbon will make representations to the ATO on the creation of a taskforce that will include ABA representation with an independent chairperson.

Representations will also be made to ensure there is a level playing field by ensuring the ATO also audits the illegal industry. My impressions of Canberra and its pollies? I was very impressed by Joel Fitzgibbon, the member for Hunter. He is smart, a good listener and looks for solutions. And the ladies were very impressed by him too!

Peter Fray

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