STATUTES AMENDMENT (DECRIMINALISATION OF SEX WORK) BILL

Thursday 20 November, 2014

Mr TARZIA (Hartley) (16:18): I rise today to speak to the Statutes Amendment (Decriminalisation of Sex Work) Bill 2014. I rise with full respect for the member for Ashford, but I oppose the bill. I oppose it not only because of my personal beliefs and the beliefs of those I represent, on balance or on the whole, but also because I believe this is a bill which attacks the fabric of society, the fabric of society of most of my electors. I will vote against it, but not necessarily based on any legalistic argument. I urge members to give the moral and legal issues full consideration, but on the whole I will not be supporting this bill.

Mr TARZIA (Hartley) (16:18): I rise today to speak to the Statutes Amendment (Decriminalisation of Sex Work) Bill 2014. I rise with full respect for the member for Ashford, but I oppose the bill. I oppose it not only because of my personal beliefs and the beliefs of those I represent, on balance or on the whole, but also because I believe this is a bill which attacks the fabric of society, the fabric of society of most of my electors. I will vote against it, but not necessarily based on any legalistic argument. I urge members to give the moral and legal issues full consideration, but on the whole I will not be supporting this bill.

I do not believe in legalising prostitution in any way, shape or form, and I know that the majority of my constituents would not support it either. Prostitution is legal in regulated forms in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland, and we have seen in those examples that it has led to an expansion of illegal brothels. It is said that one in four brothels in New South Wales do not comply with the act in many respects, despite their legalisation.

Since this debate has come to the surface again, I have had many constituents write to me over the past couple of weeks and they have drawn my attention to the member's bill. The vast majority encouraged me to vote against the bill. I understand that other lobby groups support the bill and I believe sincerely that their views are a bit misguided and that there is a clear lack of understanding of its implications, should it be enacted.

I want to talk a little bit about FamilyVoice Australia and some of the material they have circulated which has assisted me in realising the possible implications of this bill. We have seen jurisdictions around the western world that have decriminalised or legalised the sex trade and it is common knowledge that the police in several states find it extremely difficult to enforce laws regarding the exchange of money for sex. I am against any commoditisation of women or men and I do not believe that this is in the best interests of my electorate or in the best interests of South Australia, not to mention the planning issues that are associated with this bill.

Before I was a member of parliament I was part of a local council, and let me just say that our local councils do a fantastic job, but the last thing they need is an extra burden, extra red tape or extra issues in trying to enforce and determine the planning issues that will result if these brothels are approved. It is going to be a massive issue. Apart from the moral issue, it is probably the biggest social issue that is produced by this bill. How will these be enforced? How will the Planning Act be regulated and incorporated to include these brothels? Where will these brothels operate?

I do not want these brothels to be operating near my community schools. I do not want these brothels to be operating in the vicinity of family spaces. This is a massive issue and, with full respect to the member for Ashford, her bill does not address these. I simply cannot support the bill. Many brothel operators appear to engage—I will be polite to them—in other illegal activity. It would seem very likely therefore that many brothels would continue to operate unlawfully.

Prostitution is often portrayed as an agreement between a willing purchaser and a willing vendor to which there could be no objection. We have seen time and time again studies that have illustrated that prostitution is certainly not the glamorous thing that some people make it out to be. I would encourage members to read a particular report that I have had a look at concerning the practical effects of prostitution. I refer to a 2006 article by Melissa Farley, PhD candidate, published in the Yale Journal of Law and Feminism, titled 'Prostitution, trafficking and cultural amnesia: what we must not know in order to keep the business of sexual exploitation running smoothly.'

There is also mass concern regarding the exploitation of children and women. Women are obviously much more vulnerable, particularly when they are put into this kind of environment. Sexual harassment is common. Sexual violence is common in these businesses when they are legalised. Do not be fooled and do not think that rape cases or HIV transmission by any means will actually decrease, because the threat of contracting HIV and the threat of rape is not at all diminished under legal prostitution.

There are many international examples where they have said to us blatantly, 'You know what? We got this wrong.' I implore members to look at the examples from overseas. Have a look at what it has done to the family structure. Have a look at what it has done to the fabric of society. Have a look at what it has done to the social platform of those countries. What you will see is that trafficking of women is still a major problem, even with the legalisation of prostitution. The case of Sweden, where police actively enforced the law, is another example I encourage members to look at.

There was an article in The Sydney Morning Herald last month that revealed some sex workers are frequently exploited and some are paid less based on other Australian counterparts. There are a number of issues, even when legalised. There are also issues concerning who owns these brothels if they are to be legalised. The member for Ashford has many answers to provide in relation to that. I have full respect for the member for Ashford and her passionate interest in this, but there are a number of issues with this bill and I simply cannot support it.

The prohibition of underage sex workers is something this bill fails to consider. There would need to be further controls on street sex workers, advertising, infected sex workers not working, licences and who enforces those licences, which office will administer those licences? This bill has none of these. Who is an approved manager? Is there a tribunal that overrides it? What are the powers of inspection?

I thank the police for providing recent consultation to members. They even say that enforcement is a massive issue. To catch one of these people in the act is extremely hard at the moment and there are a wide range of issues stemming from this bill. Planning controls and issues associated with planning controls are a massive concern, especially in residential zones, community and church areas.

Whilst I understand that the member for Ashford has a particular interest in this area, I respect her points of view, and I say this with deep respect from both sides of the argument. I implore members on both sides of the house to do their research on this issue. Have a look at it and have a look at what this bill will do to the fabric of our society if it is implemented. What will it do to the family structure? What will it do to the planning process and the social fabric that we have in our local area? Brothels appear to engage or host other illegal activity, and it would seem likely therefore that many more brothels will continue to operate if this bill comes to fruition. With those few words, I am against the bill.