Sex Work Reform Bill Defeated
On 13 November 2019 the Statutes Amendment (Decriminalisation of Sex Work) Bill 2018 was defeated in the State Parliament. This news may come as a relief to some councils who had concerns about the impact of the proposed reforms.
Our interstate counterparts have been proactive in effecting reform to either decriminalise the industry (in New South Wales) or legislate the industry (in Queensland and Victoria). The scope of this Bill was wide reaching, but focussed primarily on decriminalisation and removing the stigma associated with the industry. In that sense it was modelled on the New South Wales reforms. It was also very similar in content to a Bill that was introduced into our State Parliament in 2015.
The Bill was criticised by some councils for essentially leaving the regulation and approval of brothels to planning controls and enforcement mechanisms under existing legislation. This was presumably to occur without providing councils with the necessary tools and policy to be able to reject applications for sensitively located brothels or to enforce the closure of non-compliant brothels. It also would have been an additional resource impost on councils, including in relation to enforcement generally and additional regulation responsibilities for street prostitution. Some other concerns of councils related to brothel advertising on signs in public view and leaflet distribution; the fact that the Bill did not include a definition of “brothel”; and that there was no register or vetting of brothel owners.
The many issues involved in this reform are inherently sensitive ones to balance. The State Parliament was simply not able to strike a consensus on that balance in respect of this Bill. However, we have little doubt that this topic will remain on the reform agenda and could resurface as a fresh reform Bill over the coming years.