The Australian Sex Party:

Rob Ruminski, Australian Sex Party volunteer, on behalf of Fiona Patten, Robbie Swan, Christian Vega and The Australian Sex Party, writes: Re. “Rundle: is the sex industry getting bang for its buck?” (Monday, item 11). The following is a refutation of claims and representations made in Guy Rundle’s article.

Rundle wrote:

“[The Sex Party is] an outgrowth of the Eros Foundation, the sex industry lobby group, and it is less keen on the pure expression of human freedom than it is in pushing for a particular regulatory regime that benefits the legal sex industry. It has a bunch of policies about drug decriminalisation, internet non-censorship, etc, but its main game is to enforce a strict line between the legal and non-legal sex trade, to the benefit of the former.”

The Victorian branch of the Australian Sex Party’s policy on sex work is very clear. The ASP advocates for decriminalisation of sex work, and does not support the current legal/regulatory regime. The policy can be found here.

While the Victorian Party’s policy has not yet been ratified federally (an administrative oversight), it has been ratified in NSW as well. This is the approach that has been advocated at every level of the party in every instance. This is also the only policy on sex work that exists at any level of the party. We would challenge Rundle to produce evidence to the contrary.

As to the claims regarding associations between Eros and the brothel industry, this is patently untrue. According to Robbie Swan:

“The Eros Association stopped taking brothel owners as members over a decade ago when it became the adult ‘retail’ association. As a result we now only have one brothel in Victoria as an associate member on a fee of $590 per year. The only other brothel to have supported the Sex Party with a donation of $500 was The Boardroom of Melbourne, a couple of years ago. Mr. Rundle’s suggestion that the Victorian brothel owners are big supporters of the Eros Association is demonstrably untrue. Rundle appears ignorant of the fact that the legal Victorian brothels have their own industry association anyway. The annual returns of both the Eros Association (an incorporated not for profit adult industry association) and The S-x Party (a registered political party) are on the public record.”

Rundle wrote:

“Thus ASP frequently finds itself at loggerheads with sex-worker rep groups such as the Scarlet Alliance, which opposes the strict enforcement of a legal/non-legal distinction on the grounds that it punishes women, men, and intersex people, who for whatever reason find themselves working the wild side. Furthermore, it enforces a simple and false opposition – that legal is safe.”

Also false. Rundle again misrepresents ASP sex work policy, as well as our relationship with Scarlet Alliance and other sex worker advocacy groups. This isn’t surprising as he didn’t contact us, nor to our knowledge did he contact anyone from SA.

The ASP and Scarlet Alliance have a strong history of working together. Up to half a dozen of our candidates nationally have also been Scarlet Committee members and representatives. These affiliations have generally been publicised in each instance that these candidates have run for the ASP. It’s also worth noting that Christian Vega — who in addition to being an ASP candidate is also a sex worker and has worked with a multitude of sex worker organisations including Scarlet, RhED and Vixen — wrote the ASP policy on sex work.

Rundle wrote:

“The Greens, as their website makes clear, believe in drug decriminalisation (though not the full legalisation ASP favour).”

Rundle seems to have had enough time to check the Greens website, but not the ASP site. Sex Party policy has always called for the decriminalisation of drugs. Bizarrely, this statement also contradicts Rundle’s correct representation earlier in the article that the ASP has a decriminalisation policy.

Rundle wrote:

“Who was the main objector to this suggested policy for the next Labor government – it was ta-da, the Australian Sex Party.”

Also untrue. The Victorian Recommendations into Trafficking and for Sex Work were actively and vocally opposed by a broad coalition of organisations, including Scarlet Alliance, Respect Inc. Queensland, Sex Workers Outreach Project, Sex Industry Network (SIN) South Australia, and over 10 international groups, most based in Asia. They were also opposed by the Sex Party. We cosigned the response penned by Scarlet Alliance, the organisation that Rundle contends we’re at loggerheads with.

In an interesting side note, at the time of the inquiry Ms Maddigan was on the board of Project Respect, a vociferously anti-sex work organisation founded by former Greens candidate Kathleen Maltzahn. One of the aims of Project Respect is to introduce the Swedish Model into Australia (as advocated by Rundle in his article). This approach is ubiquitously opposed by sex worker organisations both in Australia and worldwide — another basic fact that Rundle could have discovered with a minimum of research.

Rundle wrote:

“What is the bet that part of the deal between the ALP and the ASP was that the notion of raids on legal brothels had been quietly dropped from any consideration by a future ALP government?”

Had Rundle bothered to ask, we could have disabused him of this particularly nasty accusation. I have personally been involved with all preference negotiations since the Federal election and can categorically say that no such deal has ever been made — not at Federal, not at State and not in Melbourne.

In fact, there was no quid pro quo at all in the arrangement beyond a straight preference swap for this by election. The Sex Party have never sought or been offered any policy concessions or future promises as part of any preference arrangement. We would challenge anyone with evidence to the contrary to come forward.

Rundle’s entire piece is a distortion, full of blatant untruths and gross misrepresentations. He offers no evidence to back up his wild speculations and conspiracy theories. Every falsehood as outlined above could have been addressed with an hour or two of basic research and a couple of phone calls.

As a true free speech party, we won’t be setting our lawyers Rundle any time soon. For the record, however, he has seriously impugned the good name of the Sex Party. Without even speaking to us or presenting any evidence, Rundle — and by extension Crikey — has accused us of entering into a criminal conspiracy to undermine both electoral law and police enforcement of existing laws relating to sex work. We would urge Rundle to make a minimum effort to get his facts straight next time, and would urge Crikey to seriously examine the editorial process that lead to the publication of this piece.

Crikey readers review the just-opened Brisbane Airport Link:

CRIKEY: Yesterday in out “Tips and Rumours” column we asked any Brisbane readers to offer us a review of the just-opened Brisbane Airport Link tunnel? Here is the response we received.

Murray Arundell writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 7). Great Tunnel, lousy signage … I took a ride through the tunnel yesterday morning en-route from my home in Clayfield to my office in the South West. All went smoothly until exiting the Airport Link.

My plan was to head straight into the Clem 7 and come up for air outside the PA Hospital near Annerley. I followed the signs and got into what I thought was the correct lane but found myself on the Inner City Bypass instead. Now how this happened I’ve no idea so this morning I’ll be doubly sure to closely read the signs.

I’d have thought though with the Clem 7 tunnel needing all the help they can get to put traffic into their tunnel that they’d have paid Airport Link to have flashing lights, high-visibility line markings and neon signs pointing hapless motorist in their direction …

John Wallace writes: Went through part of the tunnel yesterday morning from Toombul to the Chermside exit. Not many vehicles at 7.30am, maybe more going the other way perhaps.

This seems to be a wider space than the Clem 7 (which always seems narrow) but may have been partly because of the lack of traffic. I didn’t time the trip  but it was a quick one, I felt as though I would have saved 10 or 12 minutes for the distance, given that I missed about six sets of traffic lights. Signage was OK but the speed limits could be a trap.

Entry and the first part of the journey is at 60kmh, then up to 80kmh with an abrupt 60kmh again at the exit, something to get used to I guess. I heard reports that the areas around the entry and exits were getting congested because more people were able to get to these points at the one time.

Overall for my experience a big thumbs up.

Kirk Muddle writes: I drove it twice yesterday. Once from Bowen Hills to Kedron and once from Bowen Hills to the Airport. Yes, a distinct sense of roominess, no panic from other road users about where to go (plentiful signage), the lack of continuous mobile phone reception was slightly unnerving, but that should sort with time.

I use to drive the M5 east and Harbour Tunnel daily up until three years ago, it feels nicer than that (more headroom).

Shame it dumps all the traffic at Kedron onto a surface street that can’t cope with the traffic flows. Le Sigh …

Kevin O’Donnell writes: I used the tunnel both this morning and this afternoon. All was fine with the morning run exiting towards the airport but in the afternoon the tunnel succeeded in getting traffic too quickly to Gympie and Stafford Roads where traffic was stationary and backing up into the tunnel.

I cannot see it improving until the free period ends and cars return to existing roads.

Chris Keane writes: I think it is worth noting that the Airport Link tunnel is the longest road tunnel in Australia at 6.7 kilometres, which represents almost one kilometre for each NRL state of origin series that Queensland have won in succession — he he!  Might have to get the tunnel boring machines out again next year …

Kevin Campbell writes: Our tunnels r farkin grate, u cockroach munchin southerners …

Melbourne byelection:

Hugh McCaig writes: Re. “Could a Greens-Lib deal knock off Danby, Ferguson, Shorten?” (yesterday, item 11). Poor Stephen Mayne — he’s disappointed at his very ordinary vote tally in Saturday’s election and clearly so hurt at the Green’s inability to beat the Labor candidate that he has a piece of  Shaun Carney.

Carney had used his Age article, July 23, to put the Green’s federal member for Melbourne, Adam Bandt, right on some relevant statistics regarding his own winning of the federal seat in 2010. Bandt’s  primary vote had been lower than the Labor candidate yet had won on preferences, some that would have come from right-wing sources. This situation was played out again in the state seat on Saturday, when the Labor candidate won on preferences after a lower primary count.

Get used to it, Stephen — there is more to running a state or country than Green feel-good sentiment.

John Kotsopoulos writes: “After all, don’t forget that this precise scenario happened in Britain when the most progressive party, the Liberal Democrats, teamed with the Conservatives to knock off a jaded and cynical Labour machine,” writes Stephen Mayne.

He should really keep up. Sure it helped terminate a tired UK  Labour government but it has now all gone pear-shaped, with Labor holding a strong lead in the polls and the Tories the Lib Dems shredding themselves over the compromises this deal has forced on their leaders.

Martin Musgrave writes: Re. “Byelection apathy: there’s more to the Melbourne story”  (yesterday, item 10). Regarding the story on the Melbourne byelection, it should also be said that the byelection was held at the end of the uni break between semesters, a time when students are likely to be back home, so a lack of absentee voting facilities would hit them. In addition, July is the traditional time that Melburnians head north for some warmth, so that might explain some of the smaller turnout as well.

It will be interesting to see what explanations the VEC get from the 14,000-odd people as to why they didn’t vote; my guess is that it will be less about apathy and more about inconvenience. A case for internet voting?

Freedom from the press:

Harry Lawrence writes: My problem with the media is not about its content but the fact that I am compelled to consume some of it. For 27 years now I have been asking regularly to not receive our local newspaper, which is thrown onto my property each week.

Still it comes — every published issue.  The paper — Portside Messenger in Adelaide, a News publication I believe, keeps a record of people who don’t want it.

This doesn’t work for me. Some years ago there was a limited period of some months when I didn’t get it, but for the past three years at least it has been delivered every week it was published despite many phone calls and unanswered letters. Pleading, begging, courteous requests, raging demands, insulting — nothing works.

Surely it’s time to be able to opt out of consuming private products we don’t want!

Many local papers in rural towns are profitable without requiring every household to consume them. Surely this is possible in metropolitan areas.

Peter Fray

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