The Daily Telegraph yesterday exposed the poor state of regulation of the NSW brothel industry. Today it followed up with another horror story of a legal brothel trading next door to an exclusive private Catholic girls school at Potts Point in Sydney.

Reporter Adam Walters, formerly a spinner for ex-premier Morris Iemma, hasn’t missed his target. He takes aim at the NSW government and in particular planning minister Kristina Keneally who has presided over the illegal brothel debacle.

It’s a damning indictment on the Rees government’s failure to properly monitor the effect of new laws introduced by the government in October 2007 to counter the spread of illegal brothels.

Keneally responded to the criticism yesterday on the ABC by urging media groups to become the policeman in preventing illegal brothels from advertising. She said, “It is a benefit to illegal premises to be able to advertise in the newspaper. If they can’t advertise nobody knows they’re there. That is one of the most effective steps that can be taken to shut down illegal sex premises.”

Talk about policy on the run. Kenneally has done a 360 on the government’s brothel advertising policy. On 7 June 2007 in response to a question without notice from the Reverend Fred Nile on the advertising issue, the attorney-general John Hatzistergos said, “… advertising of illegal brothels can facilitate their detection.”

Kenneally has also had buried under her desk since she became planning minister in September 2008 a recommendation from the Independent Commission against Corruption (ICAC) to introduce legislation to prevent illegal brothels from advertising. Get with it Minister!

It’s time for authorities to rethink the whole brothel thing.  Local Councils have shown they are not up to the task of enforcing the government’s brothel laws so the first thing to do is take brothels out of council planning controls. We need to have new laws and a new agency to deal with the problem.

A new Act could give enforcement powers to a new body — a Brothel Licensing Authority — to enforce brothel regulation in NSW.

Its charter would be to:

  1. Enforce OH&S standards throughout the industry
  2. Close illegal unlicensed brothels
  3. Prevent corruption and organised crime infiltrating the industry
  4. Introduce probity checks for the owners and managers of all legal brothels. Anyone with a serious criminal history for offences such as fraud, people smuggling, kidnapping, murder, assault, child s-x offences etc would be weeded out. Current legal brothel owners are to be included in the checks. At the moment any Tom, Dick or Harry can have a brothel license in NSW irrespective of their background.
  5. The BLA will have coercive powers and will be able to enter premises suspected of operating illegally and gather evidence.
  6. The BLA will be able to close illegal brothels on the spot. There will be appeal rights to a local magistrate’s court not Land and Environment Court as it is at present.
  7. The BLA will draw its officers from federal and state police forces, the Australian Taxation Office and other law enforcement agencies. They will work closely with the Immigration Department, The Australian Federal Police Trans-national sex crimes unit, the NSW Police, the Australian Taxation Office and Centrelink.
  8. New penalties for operating an illegal brothel. Repeat offenders would receive greater penalties including making a new charge of operating an illegal brothel an indictable offence.