You had to reassure yourself you were living in Australia and not some third world country after reading about the terrible plight of young Korean women lured to Australia to be part of a sex slave operation that came to light in a Sydney court on Friday.

A number of people have been arrested for various offences including people trafficking, debt bondage, deceptive recruitment for sexual purposes, conducting a business involving sexual servitude, dealing with the proceeds of crime and immigration breaches. What is more disturbing is that the brothel in question is reported to be a legal brothel but is not a member of the Adult Business Association NSW, the organisation I represent.

How on Earth did these people get a license to run a brothel and why did the City of Sydney Council grant such a license? The answer is simple; in NSW under the current Iemma Government legislation any Tom, Dick or Harry can apply to their local council to get one. Roll up! Roll up! Child molesters, kidnappers, rapists and hoodlums, come forward and get your brothel license from Morris Iemma! That’s right, any person, irrespective of their criminal background, can run a brothel because under the law no one is barred from applying nor are there any probity checks done to root out undesirables.

When prostitution was decriminalised in 1995 and brothels went from being governed under criminal law to planning controls administered by local councils, no special corruption prevention measures accompanied the changes. Historically prostitution in NSW was corrupt with large amounts of money being paid to police to turn a blind eye. Now it’s compliance officers in councils that attract the illegal loot. Wads of cash are now being paid to corrupt council workers to turn a blind eye to illegal brothel operations. We found that to be the case after a Parramatta City Council compliance officer was investigated by ICAC last year.

Are we naive to think only one council officer is corrupt or that there are not more Asian sex slave establishments in Sydney? I have referred two councils, Waverley and Strathfield, to ICAC for refusing to close down illegal brothels. Co-incidentally, the brothels they are protecting have Korean women as their service providers.

In August 2007 ICAC made thirteen recommendations emanating from the above mentioned investigation, ten of which went to the council. The other three recommendations were referred to the Iemma government. Recommendation 2 said:

It is recommended that the Minister for Planning and the Attorney General give consideration to adopting a system to prevent unsuitable persons operating brothels.

Parramatta Council has positively responded to all their recommendations. The minister responsible for responding to the recommendations, Frank Sartor, the Minister for Planning, has done nothing. Seven months after ICAC’s recommendations Mr Sartor is still navel- gazing over the issue. If the government don’t want more sex slave stories on their doorstep then Mr Sartor better get cracking.

Peter Fray

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