Please note: This is an extract from Hansard only. Hansard extracts are reproduced with permission from the Parliament of Tasmania.


Second Reading

[11.14 a.m.]

Ms THORP (Rumney - 2R) - Mr President, I move -

That the bill be now read the second time.

Some of the events of the last few months have been new experiences for me and I am finding them most educational. I think one needs to wait for the end point before one makes a judgment about the whole of the experience.

Mr PRESIDENT - I think they have been unique experiences for everybody.

Members laughing .

Ms THORP - Mr President, this new bill recognises the depth of community feeling against the Sex Industry Regulation Bill 2005 and regulation of the sex industry. The purpose of that bill was to provide greater protection for sex workers and children and establish a regulatory framework to keep undesirable elements out of the sex industry. However, it became very clear that the original legislation was never going to make it through the Legislative Council. Therefore this new bill has been prepared.

Mr President, the sex industry will not go away. It is therefore important that we legislate to protect public health, children and workers in the industry. But we must also ensure that the law is responsive to community attitudes expressed through the debate on this matter.

Mr President, it is not illegal to be a prostitute. The Sex Industry Offences Bill does not change that. As the previous bill did, this bill does include offence provisions to ensure that Tasmania meets its international obligations under the United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, which was signed by Australia in 2001 .

It contains provisions that make it an offence for anyone to procure, cause or permit a child - defined as anyone under the age of 18 - to provide sexual services in a sexual services business or receive any fee or reward known to be derived from sexual services provided by a child in a sexual services business. Procuring or permitting a child to provide sexual services will carry a penalty of 15 years' jail.

The bill also provides that it will be an offence for any child to be on the premises where sexual services are being provided.

In order to protect vulnerable persons the bill retains the provisions of the previous bill relating to the offence of forcing a person to become or remain a sex worker - often referred to as sexual slavery.

The bill, Mr President, in addition to these offences also includes separate offences relating to intimidating, assaulting and threatening sex workers.

The object of these sections is to prevent women - and men - from being coerced into prostitution or forced to continue to work as a sex worker and also to make it clear that certain crimes against sex workers, which otherwise could be prosecuted under a number of different acts, may result in a higher penalty if prosecuted under this act. This recognises the vulnerable and marginalised position of sex workers in our society.

Mr President, this bill introduces a new offence designed to clarify and tighten the existing law that makes it illegal for a person to employ or otherwise control or profit from the work of individual sex workers. The current provisions which make it illegal to run a commercial sexual services business have been clarified and the penalties significantly increased.

At present, 'brothels', 'bawdy houses', 'disorderly houses' and 'living off the earnings' are illegal in Tasmania. In the past, the interpretation and proving the offence of 'living off the earnings of prostitution' has been problematic. This bill maintains the situation that these are illegal activities but repeals the offences in the Police Offences Act and the Criminal Code and replaces them with modern legal drafting in a specific bill.

The bill includes a new provision that makes it an offence for a person, other than a self-employed sex worker, to own, operate or be in day-to-day control of a sexual services business. 'Own, operate or be in day-to-day control' is defined to include 'determining when or where a sex worker will work; the conditions in which a sex worker will work and the amount of money, or proportion of an amount of money that a sex worker will receive as payment for sexual services'. In particular, Mr President, the bill clarifies that it is not necessary to be operating a 'premises', to be controlling or profiting from the work of individual sex workers. It is expected that this broad definition will apply to anyone who in any way controls or profits from individual sex workers. It will cover sex workers who work from a 'brothel' or from an 'escort agency'.

The penalty for operating a commercial sexual services business is a fine not exceeding $80 000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding eight years, or both.

A person who receives sexual services from a sex worker in a commercial sexual business will also be subject to penalties - a fine not exceeding $10 000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year, or both. Mr President, however, a client will not be prosecuted if he or she gives evidence in court about receiving those sexual services. This will assist in providing the evidence needed to prosecute commercial operators.

To assist the police investigate and prosecute these types of offences a number of provisions from the Sex Industry Regulation Bill 2005 have been retained. Mr President, these include powers to enter and to arrest without warrant where certain offences are being or have been committed. These offences will include where a commercial sexual service is being operated.

There is a general power of arrest where police are being hindered or obstructed.

A new provision increases the ability of police to close down a commercial sexual services business. This is the power, where the Commissioner of Police reasonably believes that a person is operating or managing a commercial sexual services business on or from premises, to serve an order on the owner or lessee of the premises requiring them to cease operating that business. If the business continues to operate, Mr President, the Commissioner of Police has the power to fix a notice to the premises forbidding entry to the premises without the permission of the commissioner. The same notice may be published in the daily newspaper circulating in the area of the premises.

Persons subject to these orders may apply to a magistrate to revoke such an order. The magistrate may revoke the order if the applicant establishes, on the balance of probabilities, that a commercial sexual services business is not operating at or from the premises.

The bill further provides that a police officer of the rank of sergeant or above, if he or she reasonably believes that a person is a commercial operator, may also require that person to answer questions about the source of any income. This is a specific modification of the normal right not to answer questions.

A further change in this bill, Mr President, are consequential amendments to the Evidence (Children and Special Witnesses) Act 2001 which will allow a person to be declared a special witness so that they do not have to give evidence in the presence of those who may intimidate or threaten them. Similar changes have been made to the Justices Act 1959.

Individuals who choose to work independently as sex workers or with one other sex worker will still be able to do so legally. However, the prohibition on soliciting in a public place remains, and there is a provision in the bill that requires both individual sex workers and their clients to adopt safe sex practices.

The target of this legislation is ensuring that persons are not forced into or pressured to remain in the sex industry.

Mr President, no matter how distasteful sex work may be to many in the community, the reality is that problems within the sex industry can almost entirely be traced to some brothel owners using violence and intimidation against sex workers and procuring and exploiting children as sex workers, as opposed to the operations of individual prostitutes.

While the Government still believes regulation of the industry would have been the best way to go, we also believe we can achieve many of the outcomes of the original legislation with these amendments. Mr President, I commend the bill to the Council.

[11.24 a.m.]

Mrs RATTRAY-WAGNER (Apsley) - Mr President, I have asked myself many times over the past month what sort of message I want to send to the members of the community and, equally important, what message will be delivered with the proposed current legislation.

My view of the society in which we live has been challenged. The immense amount of information received, both written and verbal, has made me on occasions acutely aware of just how narrow my understanding of how and in some instances why people choose their place in our society.

Mr President, I sincerely thank all members of the public who took the time to deliver their opinions, and especially those very courageous young women who have been so open and honest with their thoughts and their stories and at times delivering information which I must assume has been so difficult for them to share. On a personal level I know at times it was difficult and very disturbing in some instances to hear that their circumstances are so very real.

Mr President, there would not be one single person here today I am sure who does not want to make the communities within our society better places to be part of. The question before us is whether this particular bill is going to achieve that goal. Keeping that important objective in mind, I find the summary of the bill gives somewhat of an overview of the Sex Industry Offences Bill that if supported here today will become law and I must state this is only the bill that I am talking about that we actually had yesterday, it is not the actual one - I have not had time to scan through that in the last five minutes. I am assuming that the bill that we have before us is pretty much as it was yesterday with the amendments that we were advised of. So thank you honourable member for Rumney.

My observation of what the bill will deliver is that brothel owners will face fines of up to $80 000 and eight years in jail. Clients of brothels can be fined up to $10 000 or sent to jail for a year. Clients will be able to escape prosecution if they agree to give evidence in court. There will be fines of up to $50 000 or five years' jail for anyone who threatens, intimidates or assaults a sex worker or supplies or offers drugs to a sex worker. Pimps who use or attempt to use standover tactics to keep or bring a person into the sex industry will face fines of up to $150 000 or 15 years' jail. There will be a maximum of a $30 000 fine and a three years' jail term for people who accost an under-age person for sex work. Lastly, there will be fines of up to $50 000 for clients or sex workers who interfere with or do not use condoms or knowingly transmit a sexually transmitted disease.

Mr President, I have asked myself, along with many others in my community, what are the concerns, if any, and I would like to share a number of the issues that were raised with me. Some of those issues were: will women working within the sex industry receive better protection, are children to be given the protection that they so rightly deserve and can we guarantee that this legislation will decrease their exploitation and their participation in the industry? Does it reduce the numbers or assist the women who are forced to choose the sex industry as a survival strategy in our society? Does legislation protect women in the sex industry, the workers, and does it lead to better outcomes for their health and wellbeing?

Mr President, I also acknowledge the concerns by the TasCOSS organisation, as late as this morning, and I will not be responding to all those issues raised but I will say that in many parts of my vast electorate the opportunity to have input into a select committee surrounding planning issues and relationships across council and department agencies are far more prevalent amongst communities than the proposed sex industry offences legislation. Mr President, that is just a fact of life in some of our communities. They are communities that I represent. Additionally, the issue of consultation, in my opinion, has been exhausted and I hasten to add that this is only my opinion and I am only one. Other honourable members will have their own views in that area and I will certainly respect those opinions.

I have a further concern which is not addressed in the legislation and that is the provision of an appropriate exit strategy or strategies for those currently working within the industry and wishing to leave. These strategies must be strong, not only in words and policy statements but also offer supportive mechanisms to assist and encourage them to make that move away from that industry if they should so desire. But in saying that, I also understand the difficulty of placing exit strategies in legislation. I am encouraged by the Government's apparent will to put some strategies in place and I look forward to the progress of those strategies regardless of the outcome of this legislation.

Taking my mind back to the concerns and issues raised with me, I am sure that not every issue raised in the whole debate around this significant social issue will be addressed by this proposed legislation. But I believe that this legislation can go some way forward in addressing the current apparent situation surrounding this industry. We would all prefer to be building on a solid rock foundation and not on the proverbial sand. I consider that with a designated review period incorporated in this legislation a foundation can begin with a considerable amount of rock amongst the sand and if they are bound together with a skilled and supportive and appropriate funding system, I can see a way forward and I am prepared to make that step and support the bill.

[11.31 a.m.]

Mrs JAMIESON (Mersey) - Mr President, we all abhor violence, abuse in its many forms and the criminal element in our communities. If women and men choose to prostitute themselves for any reasons then they should be responsible for the decisions they make, including their safety, health and other risks involved in their chosen work.

If on the other hand people including children are coerced into the sex trade then we have an obligation to have laws to protect them and to prosecute the perpetrators. The act of prostitution is not currently illegal in Tasmania. However, living off the earnings of prostitutes is illegal under the Criminal Code Act 1924 and the Police Offences Act 1935.

There are various other State acts, such as the Poisons Act 1971, Misuse of Drugs Act 2001 and more recently acts such as listening devices, the consent bill and child exploitation bills as well as the Commonwealth act against slavery and sexual servitude, et cetera, to assist the law in apprehending and charging perpetrators of criminal activities in our communities. So I ask, why are these laws not enforced by the police? Have these laws actually been tested with regard to the criminal element in prostitution? Surely appropriate amendments to existing legislation would suffice and bring up to date any outmoded language without the need to have more legislation which is subservient to the principal act.

Do we have the range of police resources to deal with more policing in our communities? We are rapidly becoming a police state, reacting to problems instead of preventing problems. There should not be a requirement to introduce more legislation to promote community education, particularly regarding health and safety in the sex industry.

Information should be easily and readily available for all. It is an indictment on us all if we and the system cannot be proactive and recognise the need to raise community awareness and education without the backing of new legislation. It is attitudes that need to change, and in this case to accept that prostitution is a fact of life and no amount of legislation will make it go away.

Therefore we need to remove the stigma and barriers facing those who work as prostitutes who are seeking medical, legal, protective assistance and/or wishing to leave their activities. As a society we should also be cognitive of the reasons people use the services of prostitutes and the reasons people prostitute themselves as a way of funding their way through life.

The law must accept that people who are victims of abuse are usually telling the truth. If and when there is a trial it should not be assumed that claims of rape or abuse are frivolous, vexatious or a distortion of the truth. The more legislation and rules we introduce, the more challenges we present to those who enjoy pitting their intellectual and financial skills against the law just to show that they can get away with breaking the law.

The Swedish legislation has been in place since 1999. It is aimed at the reduction of purchasing sexual services by penalising the purchaser of those services and charging the exploitative pimp-cum-supplier. To quote the Swedish Minister of Industry, Employment and Communications:

'In Sweden, prostitution is regarded as an aspect of male violence against women and children.'

Thus its aim is to protect the prostitute. Their legislation also states that Swedish citizens can be prosecuted if they have been convicted of purchasing sexual services abroad, provided that other country has similar legislation. But various commentators are now discrediting the Swedish laws as prostitutes apparently now have less protection, fewer facilities and reduced income, with an increase in street activities and/or movement, even across international borders.

Mr President, I will not be supporting the legislation as presented today. There has been unseemly haste in its preparation, with further amendments already mooted and little or no consultation with the very group of people we are purporting to support. Also, as previously mentioned, we have existing laws that have been underutilised and not tested. The general community is probably fed up with hearing about the enacting of this legislation during the last seven years and 27-plus amendments.

However, we as legislators should not allow ourselves to be accused of not involving and consulting with them. After all, Mr President, we are the community's representatives. I have not had a chance to weigh up the consequences of this complete change of direction by the Government. There have been various types of legislation trialled internationally and interstate, none of which appear to have the answers to our society's needs. We could well be relocating the sexual abuse from the brothels to the street and/or back home to our families.

Mr President, Tasmania should be the ideal State within which to set an example to other States in combating the crimes associated with prostitution. Regardless of whether or not this legislation is passed, the Government must have a review period built into it for the situation and/or the legislation if we pass it and/or if we do not pass it, have another review. We must have formal programs such as safe houses, information, employment, social and emotional support to assist people wishing to leave the sex industry.

I challenge all church groups to not moralise but work together with other agencies to offer a range of services to suit the many needs of people who have been adversely affected by their being involved in any aspect of prostitution. Tasmania is a physically contained environment with most service provider groups known to each other. The population spread of density and rural is the right mix to have a positive outcome as long as there is the will to change and work cooperatively.

I support the TasCOSS call for an updated select committee review. I appreciate that we have been 'sexed out' but the situation in Tasmania may have changed and if this legislation is enacted we need to look at the consequences. We are all faced with the huge problem of predators on the Internet who so easily misrepresent themselves to vulnerable children and adults. These virtual advances are very persuasive and addictive for people who are desperate for human affection. Public education from primary school onwards should include the three Rs of respect for yourself and others and responsibility for the actions we take before we ask for our rights to be upheld by society and government.

Recognition of Visitor

Mr PRESIDENT (Statement) - Honourable members, I draw attention to the presence in the President's Reserve of the Honourable Fran Bladel, former minister of a previous government. We welcome her to the Chamber.

Members - Hear, hear.

[11.38 a.m.]

Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - The Government's motives for introducing this bill at this time concern me, Mr President. The present situation in Tasmania's sex industry has been constant for many years so the question needs to be asked: why the pressure to rush in to change it?

The Government's original intention as it stated when introducing its Sex Industry Regulation Bill 2005 in June this year was to promote the welfare and occupational health and safety of sex workers, to protect children from exploitation in the sex industry and to safeguard public health by regulating the sex services industry.

As I said then, the bill was well intentioned but in my view was never going to achieve those aims. One reason was the lack of opportunity for a full public discussion to ensue and subsequently the lack of understanding about the public attitudes to the implications of the bill, although I will say it has been very enlightening to observe the Government's desire to move on this legislation now, causing it to listen to the concerns of the members and to hear their valuable input from their electorates.

As I said in my previous speech, the basic flaw in the sex service industry is that everything is weighted against vulnerable women who are more than likely being exploited for profit and are exposed to health risks and violence from their clients. The Attorney-General is now quoted as saying that because we cannot regulate it, we are making it illegal. I believe we can be forgiven, Mr President, for thinking that the Attorney-General's present position smacks somewhat of pique.

Will the Government now make illegal everything that it cannot regulate? Can it stamp out brothels or will it merely drive the sex service industry underground, as some in the industry have suggested.

Mr President, I said of the original Sex Industry Regulation Bill that there had not been sufficient time, particularly for independent members in this House, to properly consider it. I said it was a rushed job and most of us in this House would not be rushed. My comments in June are even more appropriate now. Mr President, I cannot help but be a little suspicious about this bill and I doubt that it can achieve those laudable aims of the previous bill which are repeated in the title of this attempt. I will quote:

'An Act to impose certain restrictions on the operation of sexual services businesses in order to protect children and sex workers from exploitation in the sex industry, to safeguard public health …'

Mr President, we have seen three variations on the bill since last Friday. As the member for Huon said earlier today, it just looks like legislation on the run. I have attempted to take legal advice on aspects of the bill but it seems to be a work in constant progress with ever-changing clauses that have been very difficult to pin down. However there are some general concerns.

It gives police the power to enter premises without a warrant. An accused person seems to be denied the right to question the person who provides information to a police officer and this would seem to enable a person to maliciously provide false information to a prosecutor knowing they will not have to verify their allegation in court. Provisions that make it illegal to not use prophylactics would seem hard to enforce. How could a court decide, beyond reasonable doubt, that a prophylactic was not used? It seems that a mother can have sex in a home with a companion while a child is present but not with a paying client, yet this bill could have the result of forcing more sex service providers to work from their homes.

I do have some concerns too for the clients and, as we have been told in earlier briefings, they come from all levels of society, as was mentioned - the judiciary, Parliament House, the police force and so on. It is possible that they may only be able to continue stable relationships because of the availability of sex workers.

Mr President, this bill will outlaw all brothels or premises with more than two sex service providers. Will this mean many mini brothels run by two independent workers probably in residential areas? We have heard in briefings that sex service providers have not been given much opportunity to examine, discuss and to comment on this bill. We heard yesterday in a briefing from the Scarlet Alliance that more sex service providers will be forced to work from their own homes, allowing them no separation of home and work life and making their home addresses vulnerable.

Sex workers believe that this bill gives police too much power as regulators. They also believe it will encourage people to dob in sex workers. They believe, and I think with good reason, that sex workers will be forced onto the streets. Mr President, Tasmania does not have a street sex industry like Kings Cross or Melbourne's St Kilda so do we really want a street sex industry, say in Launceston's Elphin Road or maybe down Sandy Bay Road? I think not.

Not only have sex industry participants not been consulted on this bill, the general public have had no chance either and I do not think that is the way to legislate. I would like to quote the view of the CEO of Tasmanian Council of Social Service, Matt Rowell, that all stakeholders needed the opportunity to consider the implications of the legislation prior to Parliament considering the bill. So far all the consultation has been over legislation to regulate the sex industry by legalising brothels and registering individual sex workers. However this latest draft version is nothing like what we were consulted on.

'Sex Workers, Industry Operators and Community Service Organisations need the opportunity to consider the bill and what it means for both workers and their clients, as well as the many community service organisations that currently work closely with the industry by providing counselling and health service to workers.'

That is a sensible comment by TasCOSS, Mr President. Perhaps we should also look at Mr Rowell's call for a select committee to enable proper input from the public.

Mr President, I have outlined some reservation about the Sex Industry Offences Bill. I feel that this House is proceeding with caution in its consideration and I will do likewise. I would say again, I cannot help but feel that we are being rushed with this bill for no apparent reason.

[11.45 a.m.]

Mr HALL (Rowallan) - Mr President, on a previous occasion when I spoke on this subject I believe that I put forward a balanced argument, acknowledging on one hand what I believe were good intentions by the Government against a lot of opinion from within my electorate and from throughout the State that opposed that particular issue. On that occasion I indicated that after due consideration I would not support that matter and indeed three other non-government members of this Chamber also took the opportunity to speak then and I believe of those who did not speak there were not any honourable members who gave an indication of support for that matter at that time. Of course, as we know, a government member subsequently moved the adjournment of that debate.

Mr President, I hope to put forward once again a balanced and reasonable case on this matter. Although not all members spoke and no vote was taken, it became obvious that that particular legislation would not be supported in its current form. Despite suggestions at the time from the honourable Leader that the Council should vote the bill into the Committee stage and then consider the main amendments which honourable members had already flagged, the Government indicated as late as last Monday it would virtually introduce a new bill. So we were, Mr President, led to believe that we would deal with it today as amendments to the previous bill, with many of the changes from the previous one included, some clauses deleted and new ones added. The intention of those amendments, however, was quite contrary to the intent of that of a previous occasion. When I received a draft, as other members did, of the Sex Industry Offences Bill 2005 over the weekend with no other supporting documentation, I assumed then that, as the bill still stated, it would be brought in by the Minister for Justice, and a number of clause numbers were missing, that the clauses to be deleted would be deleted either by amendment or voting against them and that the new provisions which were to be included in colour on the draft bill would be formally moved as amendments. That was rather a messy way, in my opinion, to deal with the legislation and it probably would have been much clearer to withdraw the previous bill from the Notice Paper and introduce a new bill.

Mr President, as well, the change to the long title of this bill also has changed significantly from the previous one. We go from a bill which was to promote the welfare and the occupational health and safety of sex workers to one now which imposes certain restrictions on the operation of sexual services businesses. Having said that, I feel much more comfortable dealing with this bill in the manner in which we are now. I think it is a much cleaner method. I do not want to repeat everything I said on a previous occasion; however I would like to reinforce by summary some of those matters which are relevant again today as we debate this new bill. This bill purports to impose certain restrictions on the operations of sexual services businesses in order to protect children and sex workers from exploitation in the sex industry and to safeguard public health as well as amending several acts basically because this bill proposes to make certain sections of other acts redundant.

I would like to turn my attention to some of the concerns I have had with several provisions of this bill prior to discussing those concerns in detail should we get into the Committee stage. In opening my speech on a previous occasion, I said that I doubted that any government anywhere in the world would endeavour to introduce legislation which would promote trafficking of women and children or, indeed, violence against women or, just as concerning, to promote greater use of the sexual services industry. I did not believe the last bill would necessarily do that.

The bill currently before us, whilst still legalising certain aspects of that industry, makes certain current operations illegal. I think this bill on the one hand sends a better message to the community by closing down brothels. But I am concerned, on the other hand, as to the consequences of that action.

I recall TasCOSS urging us at one of our briefings not to place moral or emotional issues before the clear and urgent need to protect and support the women and men participating in an unregulated sex industry. Mr President, I would like to heed that warning. Although I have concerns regarding this industry, I realise that it is an industry that has been around for centuries and we need to ask ourselves what the consequences of prohibition are.

Not all participants in the sex industry are slaves to that industry. During earlier briefings, a number of submissions, including those by former sex workers, indicated that was the case. We also received submissions opposed to that view, and supporting the comments of a former Toronto prostitute, Valerie Scott, who wrote in the Toronto Star in 1989 that prostitutes do not sell their bodies; housewives do that. What prostitutes do is rent their bodies for sexual services.

Mr President, that was a businesslike comment from a provider of the services and Henry Miller in one of his publications put forward the views of a client:

'Sex is one of the nine reasons for reincarnation … the other eight are unimportant.'

Members laughing .

Mr HALL - If only it was that simple, Mr President. Forgive me for being flippant on such a very serious issue.

During our adjourned debate, concern was expressed that experience elsewhere indicated that increases in legal brothels was indeed accompanied by an increase in illegal brothels. The argument put forward to support that case was that operators not wishing to meet the costs, both directly and indirectly, or to comply with the regulations and strict code of practice, would merely continue to operate underground and with that went the inherent dangers therein. Mr President, I expect the same argument could be put forward again today. If we make brothels illegal, surely the sex workers and their clientele will be forced underground or the former brothel workers will be forced to operate from sole or dual-operated premises and a great many more premises in far less appropriate locations in our cities and towns.

We must remind ourselves that prostitution itself is currently not illegal in Tasmania. Neither the Sex Industry Regulation Bill nor this bill attempt to make it illegal either. What this bill will do, however, is change the way that the industry operates. We can therefore expect a significant increase in applications for planning approvals by self-employed sex workers and a huge increase in advertisements for massage and escort services claiming not to be sexual service providers. I would like to elaborate further on these points later in my address.

Tasmania seems to be taking a different course to other States. Those opposed to the operations of the sex industry I think would support this legislation as the lesser of two evils because even though it acknowledges the practice of certain participants, namely self-employed sex workers, and confirms the legality of their operations, it aims to close brothels. Opponents of the industry, however, would want much stronger legislation; ultimately legislation similar to Sweden's and I believe West Australia as well, where it is an offence to seek prostitution services.

Mr President, if there is a way to close down a business, it is more likely to be done through lack of trade than legalisation. With the exception of South Australia, all other States and Territories allow brothels. I am not sure what the current situation is in the Northern Territory. Previously, brothels were not allowed; however, the Government did receive a recommendation recently to legalise them. We should not forget the ACT, of course, as that has legislation which all the legislation is based on.

Mr President, after a great deal of thought on that other matter, even though I appreciated what this Government was endeavouring to do, I did indicate during my second reading contribution that I would not vote for that legislation to proceed to the Committee stage. Having expressed my concerns in regard to the industry, I am also mindful that effective reforms cannot be made to an industry that operates underground so again, Mr President, I am in somewhat of a dilemma with this bill. As I consider this bill, as much as I would like to see the industry subdued, as it were, if I am not confident that it can be achieved at least in the short term then I must seek and support other ways to best control it.

The first question I must ask is: why do we need this legislation? My understanding is that the operation of brothels is already illegal as it is currently illegal to live off the earnings of a prostitute. As I see it, Mr President, this bill is not so much about closing brothels down as it is about protecting the health and welfare of sex workers and children and public health. If brothel owners were acting illegally in the past, why have they not been prosecuted? Is it because the police have not had enough resources, manpower or funding to take such actions? Is the $200 000 or so - as we were told at a previous briefing, the cost to mount an operation against an illegal premises - the main hurdle to be overcome? Mr President, I would be pleased if the member in charge of the bill could, at an appropriate stage, indicate what resources they are planning to provide to enable investigations to be undertaken.

I would now like to turn specifically to some of the provisions of the bill. New clauses 5 and 6 - I have not confirmed that within the new bill but that was the way it was looking yesterday - of Part 2 of the bill before us, obviously provide a mechanism similar to that of at least one other State, which will permit undercover investigations. As I see it, Mr President, these two clauses, along with new clause 4, are the major difference - a major backflip, if you like. This new part provides for a penalty of up to $80 000 and/or eight years' imprisonment for a person or persons found guilty of operating a commercial sexual service business. Likewise, the new bill provides a penalty of up to $10 000 penalty units and/or a year in prison for a person found guilty of knowingly receiving commercial sexual services.

Members will also be aware that the provisions relating to offences against sex services and soliciting and accosting are similar to a previous bill so I will not dwell on those provisions again to say that I support them.

Mr President, the code of practice included at a previous time which covered both commercial premises and self-employed sex workers is missing from this, except for the provision of sex workers and clients to adopt safe sex practices. It is also missing special mention of regulation-making powers to cover registration of sex workers, health and safety issues and advertising. Although I support the move to make the operation of brothels illegal, I also fear that this move will bring with it a number of detrimental consequences.

Firstly, I would expect that most sex workers would want to remain in the industry. Some, no doubt, will leave due to concerns about personal safety, security and the lack of camaraderie when not able to work as part of a group. To remain in the industry they may only operate as self-employed sex workers working alone or with one other person at the most. From reports I have read and the submissions I have received, I think this is a recipe for real problems, Mr President, and I cannot possibly see how this can protect sex workers from potential violence, including rape, robbery and assault, and we had evidence from workers from the industry at a briefing yesterday morning. Forcing sex workers from brothels but still allowing them to work in the community under the various provisions of this bill may well lead to a proliferation of sex workers and I think, as the honourable member for Rosevears commented, mainly in residential areas.

I do not know how many illegal brothels are operating in our State at the moment or how many sex workers operate out of them. I do recall, however, reading a newspaper report which indicated that there could be in excess of 40 brothels throughout the State. If we had an average 20 sex workers, for example, employed at each then there would be about 800 sex workers relocating from most of these 40 brothels, most of which I would then imagine are not located in residential areas at the moment but they would be relocating into residential areas.

Home occupations will be the preferred option no doubt as one or two sex workers will try to minimise their expenses and work from home. Mr President, what this legislation will do, in my opinion, is bring the sex industry closer to homes of most Tasmanians. The other alternative to working from home is operating from a hotel or motel rooms. Industry sources advise me that the rooms most likely to be booked are those at the cheaper or budget end of the market and of course, as we know, Mr President, these are the types of rooms most likely to be booked by family groups or people on holiday. Therefore, Mr President, it would not be a good experience for those families and young children in particular to have a sex worker operating in the room next door, particularly when it is on the other side of a very thin wall.

I also believe that due to conditions placed on home occupations by most councils, self-employed sex workers will be forced to work alone from home as home occupation approvals only allow for participation in that home occupation by persons residing in those premises, again not only placing the worker at risk but also creating the conditions for disturbances in neighbourhoods and also diminishing the quality of living.

Mr President, it also reminds me of a letter by a Mrs Patrick Campbell to the press during the late 1880s, so that indicates this matter has certainly been around for a long time. Mrs Campbell wrote that she did not mind where people made love as long as they did not do it in the street and frighten the horses.

Mr Aird - A crazy horse.

Mr HALL - Yes, that is a crazy horse. The horses may be long gone, Mr President, but the neighbourhood and children in particular should not be frightened or have their peace and lifestyle disturbed by activities associated with this industry.

The bill is also unclear in regard to the operation of escort services. Whilst there may be escort services and escort services, those providing sexual services I imagine will be illegal under this legislation, as I think it would be impossible for a self-employed sex worker to operate such a service without being classed as a commercial operator or employing a person or persons who would carry out that role.

Mr President, the previous document required sex workers working from commercial premises to provide a card showing their registration number. All self-employed workers had to meet similar provisions as well. This bill has no reference that I can find to registration so self-employed workers will be legalised but not regulated.

Without regulation I can see a thriving black market cash business with no taxes being paid or any other occupational health and safety standards being maintained. A previous bill required a register to be kept of all workers. Inspection of the register listing commercial operations was open to the public while a register of self-employed workers could only be viewed by an authorised person. This provision appears to be missing from this bill.

Mr President, in conclusion, on a previous occasion I expected this issue to be fully debated, a decision reached and hopefully it would now become somewhat of a lesser issue. This matter, however, is back before us and the minister has backflipped and undoubtedly mainly as a result of this Chamber reflecting the strong views of many people in Tasmania. In saying that, I have to say that it is a perception that this matter is also not a burning issue in the electorate. Whilst on previous occasions, like all other members of this Chamber, I received a welter of opinion, mainly from church groups and those associated with them, I also detect that most people out there in the community would expect us not to procrastinate here but get on with it and make a decision. I am sure that no matter how much time is spent in consultation on this matter with the community and with special interest groups, positions are very firmly entrenched and in one month's time, for example, we would not see any shifts in opinion and this Chamber would appear to be further vacillating on a very important social issue.

Mr President, whilst I have expressed reservations about certain aspects of this bill and its practical application, I do support it into the Committee stage. Whilst it would appear that the majority of Tasmanians want to see this industry dampened down, although I do not see that as being entirely achievable, I agree with those sentiments and as this bill purports to impose certain restrictions on the operation of sexual services businesses, those restrictions are better than no restrictions at all. I support the principle of the bill.

[12.06 p.m.]

Ms FORREST (Murchison) - Mr President, the sex industry has a disturbing history of abuse and degradation of women, young men and children and there is a clear need to address the serious criminal element and influence that exist in this industry.

I agree the situation exists and has done for many centuries and, regardless of this passage of legislation or not, these activities will continue with all their inherent risks. I do not imply by this statement however that maintaining the status quo is the preferred outcome. In fact, to do nothing will certainly not address the needs of the community or the women, young men and children already involved or currently in vulnerable situations which may result in them entering the sex industry. I certainly acknowledge the work of the Government in addressing the needs of workers and the issues of public health and I commend the Attorney for taking seriously the concerns and issues raised in this House as well as in the community with the previous legislation sent up to this House. However, Mr President, I do refute the Attorney's comments recently in the media that the previous bill was rejected in this House because independent members would not support legislation that legalised brothels in any way. Many amendments were proposed to address certain areas of concern within the previous bill and several members have not spoken to the bill. The recommended amendments were not finalised and a vote was not taken. In view of that I think it was a bit of an unfair assumption that it would not have been passed with the appropriate amendments. Anyway, here we are with the new bill.

Accurate information about the effects of other legislation in this area, the sex industry, is difficult to obtain. In the legislative review commissioned by the New Zealand Ministry of Justice, reviewing the sex industry in New Zealand prior to the passage of the Prostitution Reform Act 2003, it was found that much of the information regarding other countries, including Australia, was often conflicting, inconclusive and unsubstantiated. I will just read a couple of things out of that report because I think it highlights why it has been very difficult for us to look to other models to see what really potentially could work. There is one comment here:

'During the debate, unsubstantiated statistics were also sometimes produced literally out of thin air, as when an Australian industry spokesperson remarked during an interview that the number of brothels in Sydney had increased by 400% since decriminalisation. When subsequently questioned about the source of this figure, she was unable to provide any means of substantiation.'

Further, in reviewing the Swedish model:

'To date there is conflicting evidence regarding whether this move has led to a reduction in the numbers of sex workers.'

Further on it says:

'police have said prostitution has not decreased since the Act was passed.'

It is very hard to get clear information and direction, hence one of the reasons we are in a quandary here today and have been perhaps for a few weeks. I think most of us have found that when we are trying to do a bit of our own research.

I do believe the banning of brothels will send a very strong message to the community. I think that in making the penalties much more severe and the policing powers greater so that it is hopefully more workable, the message we send is that the exploitation and degradation of women is unacceptable. But I think that there is more to this issue than just that one very important issue. Personally, I will be forming my decision with regard to this current bill before the House based on the available evidence, not the rhetoric of those who are fundamentally opposed to the existence of prostitution purely on morals grounds.

Numerous briefings and personal research have provided much information and advice regarding this legislation. Having a strong interest in the area of sexual health, a number of years ago I watched with interest and high expectations for the cleaning-up of the sex industries in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland as legislation was introduced in these States over the last decade. I, along with many other members of the community involved in that area, was very optimistic that this legislation would reduce illegal brothels, reduce the risk of exploitation of women and empower women who work in this industry. Sadly and unfortunately this has not been the case. Exploitation of women, young men and children and serious crimes against these vulnerable members of our community and society continue. Illegal brothels flourish and crimes associated with trafficking and illicit drug use continue. Other Australian State legislation varies from no registration or licensing for sexual services businesses to strict licensing regimes in other States.

Both criminalisation and legalisation of brothels will present their own problems. I want to read again from a Justice ministry report. They put it better than I could, I think, and they are looking at the effect criminalisation can have:

'This approach makes prostitution an illegal offence for both client and sex worker, and in so doing seeks to reduce or eliminate the sex industry. This option appeals to many who are opposed to prostitution on moral, religious or feminist political grounds, but has seldom been seriously implemented because such laws tend simply to drive prostitution underground, producing undesirable health and safety consequences.'

Then in relation to the legalisation of the industry:

'A legalised approach to the sex industry makes prostitution legal under certain, state-specified conditions. Typically this would involve establishing a system of licensed workers who could work legally in licensed establishments' -

with health checks of women on demand.

'In the process, however, many of the civil rights and liberties of the workers may be violated ... women may be subjected to mandatory health checks; they may have to pay large commissions to their employer; and they may be forced to engage in unwanted practices to retain their jobs.'

So both approaches have their problems. If it was a perfect world we would have a perfect solution. We do not have a perfect world and obviously we do not have a perfect solution. The current legislation that we have in our State does make it illegal to live off the earnings of prostitution. Whilst interpretation of and proving this offence has been difficult, this situation we are looking at now will not alter the legal status of brothel operators but the penalties will certainly be more severe and, I believe, a greater deterrent.

Criminalisation of brothels or commercial sexual services businesses with significant penalties on clients who knowingly access commercial sexual services may indeed reduce the potential for the proliferation of illegal brothels in Tasmania but I am very certain that it will not make them go away as this industry is well established in the community.

The risk of forcing brothels underground is real and has been acknowledged by other members. However, the size and extent of this problem in Tasmania as opposed to other States, such as New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, is difficult to determine. One would suspect that due to our smaller geographic size and population this may not be a huge problem. However, even on a small scale this scenario will bring all the inherent risks and adverse effects on sex workers' health and wellbeing.

There are a number of good definitions provided within this bill, looking at the definition of 'sexual services', 'sexual services business' and 'commercial sexual services business'. To expand that slightly and to raise an area that perhaps sounds a warning bell, the definition of 'sexual services' is, according to the act:

'(a) an act of sexual intercourse; or

(b) any activity where there is any form of direct physical contact between 2 or more persons for the purpose of the sexual gratification of one or more of those persons including, without limitation, the masturbation of one person by another.'

I went to the Australian Oxford Dictionary and looked up masturbation to check. Masturbation is described there as: 'to produce sexual orgasm or arousal by manual stimulation of genitals etc., not by sexual intercourse;'.

One could ask, when does a massage become sexual if arousal only is required according to this definition? Could an innocent business be inadvertently subject to this legislation? Could a business such as a massage service established and passed off as a health and wellbeing service in reality be a sexual services commercial business operating behind this front? If a client has paid, say for a full body massage, which results in arousal, could this client or business find themselves in contravention? It is an interesting point. I feel that it would be very unlikely for anyone to come forward with a complaint or press a charge but we do need to be conscious of legitimate businesses out there potentially getting wrapped up in this.

I acknowledge this bill has also included a range of sex industry-related offences to protect children and sex workers, to promote safe sex practices and implement appropriate health measures and certainly to exclude inappropriate people from operating a brothel and hopefully to reduce the criminal element in this industry.

The banning of brothels has been touted as the answer to keeping the criminal element out of the sex industry; however, the Swedish experience suggests that this forces the operations underground where it may be more difficult for police to find them and to administer the law. As I mentioned before, whilst I do not think this is such a huge problem in Tasmania, we cannot forget that the sex workers certainly would need protection.

I commend the Government on the strong stance they have taken in this legislation to protect children, including the strong penalties for crimes against children. Whilst I believe there is potentially still a problem with children being drawn into illegal or underground brothels, at least the police will now have more power to act. The issue of children in the residences of sex workers at potential risk is not one I feel would be easy for the police to even recognise because, for instance, 18- or 19-year-old women might be working with a 14- or 16-year-old or even younger because they can look that old. Whilst according to this legislation it is no defence that the person did not know they were under age, there is still a real risk that these children could be drawn in.

The safety of an individual self-employed sex worker is another area of concern, and the member for Rowallan mentioned that. If this Government will accept prostitution as legitimate whilst banning brothels, I believe the Government will need to take some responsibility for these workers' safety and welfare, and I am going to raise a couple of issues in relation to that shortly.

I agree that banning of brothels and the marked increase in the penalty for operating a commercial sexual services business will have the positive effect of providing police with more power to remove this section of the industry. I fully support the inclusion of a significant deterrent in the form of significant penalty to clients who knowingly receive commercial sexual services. A significant fine, I believe, will make clients think twice before visiting a brothel and it might help to reduce the likelihood of more illegal brothels flourishing. Removing the financial buyer of your business usually does help fairly well in reducing its ongoing viability.

I agree that we need to work to make the world we live in the best we can. Whilst I do not believe for a minute that this legislation will make the sex industry go away, it does stand a reasonable chance of keeping the criminal element out of the industry, which is one of the major intents of this legislation. It will improve on the current situation but, as I said, there is no simple solution here, otherwise I think we would have found it by now, and criminalisation and legalising of the industry both have their different problems. We do hear the terms 'harm minimisation' and the 'least worst option'. I think that at some stages these are being overused and perhaps provide an opportunity to avoid making tough and possibly unpopular decisions at times. When we refer to social justice, who are we applying this justice to?

In the banning of brothels, a majority of brothel owners and pimps will have their opportunities to legally exploit, demean and perpetrate violence on women severely curtailed but what about the social justice for the women who are the victims? What about the protection of the sex workers who are self-employed, working on their own? My concern is that they will become more vulnerable under this legislation as brothels are banned and I have a great concern that this will cause these workers who are out there on their own to be at even greater risk of becoming a victim of a serious crime.

Will we, as a government, be responsible for the risk and the outcomes experienced by the self-employed sex workers as this legislation is sanctioned in this part of the industry? Whilst this is a highly emotive topic and debate, I believe it is vitally important we do not get sidetracked by emotion. The information we have heard and read, whilst it may not be new to some of us, is emotive, challenging and upsetting. We must not lose sight of the objectives. We need to be sure the decisions made regarding this bill are not based on emotion as this will not serve the needs of the sex workers, the sex industry or the community at large. However, let us not forget what prostitution is about. It is about exploitation and degradation of and violence towards mostly women by mostly men. It is about power and domination over women and the violation of human dignity.

According to a wide range of research in this area, the majority of women do not enter the sex industry through choice, they enter through coercion, poverty, homelessness, hunger, disadvantage and powerlessness. Some would suggest that prostitution is little more than an economic opportunity in a free-market economy rather than abuse of power and general inequity. This understanding or attitude can make it challenging for those outside the industry to really understand the damage and harm experienced by some sex workers. I would suggest that we should look more to addressing the issues of disadvantage, homelessness and poverty, a cycle that often drives women, young men and children into the industry whether they are self-employed or work in a brothel.

When looking at the comment that has been made about removing the need for the registration of sex workers, I acknowledge the reason that was removed as the main reason for the registration was to allow sex workers to be employed within a legal brothel. I agree that many self-employed sex workers, especially those who only work intermittently or short term, only do so to pay specific bills they have like phone bills, power bills, HECS fees and whatever and they would not have chosen to register anyway under the previously proposed legislation. However it might make it difficult to recognise how many sex workers are out there if you want to target them for education if they are not registered. If self-employed sex workers are not required to register it will be difficult to provide that because they will become quite potentially invisible except for the advertisements they place. Unless there is a program that is developed where all sex workers who advertise publicly are contacted regularly to provide these services, the health and education needs of these workers may not be met.

The intention of this bill, as I say, is to protect children and sex workers from exploitation in the sex industry and to safeguard public health. No mention is made in this description of the bill with regard to the health of a sex worker. Are we to assume that this comes under the banner of public health? Unless there is some mechanism in place to provide these health and safety services to sex workers it is unlikely these intentions will be realised.

Current legislation obviously needs to reflect the current circumstances and the police have found the existing legislation notoriously difficult to police. This amended legislation will give police the power to close a brothel and police in fact have a mandate to do so. When the issue of police power in entering and closing illegal brothels was raised with a police inspector in a previous briefing, one concern raised was the perceived risk of police corruption. This raises the question of whether police corruption could be or in fact is an issue with or without this legislation currently and potentially in the future in relation to illegal brothels that are already and will potentially operate in Tasmania. If we are serious about exposing crime not only in this but in all other areas, we need to be sure that our Tasmanian police force is above corruption.

Deputy Commissioner Johnson in a previous briefing on the previous bill stated that laws need to be clear and unambiguous, unlike many of the current laws that govern prostitution. The lack of appropriate penalties has been an issue for police in prosecuting offenders and it is commendable to see that the Government has dealt with this issue by increasing penalties to the level where in fact it will be a deterrent. Necessary improvements to police power included in this legislation which you pass into law will assist police in administering the law.

One of the issues that I think needs to be addressed - and I am not sure whether it is a matter to be included in the bill - is the issue of an exit strategy, which has been mentioned by the honourable member for Apsley and maybe others. Measures taken to criminalise brothels will result in a number of sex workers being either forced out of work or into self-employed practice. Many may wish to leave the industry but may feel vulnerable working for themselves. I believe the Government has a responsibility to ensure exit strategy support is provided to these workers as many will have few, if any, qualifications to work in other areas. Some may have drug addiction problems and debts which they will find difficult to service.

No mention has been made in this legislation for any plans for exit strategies, which I believe is a major oversight as this legislation will force many workers either into a self-employed role or to a situation where they have markedly reduced income. The impact of work in this industry on workers is significant and often has serious health outcomes. Many of the workers also have problems of addiction. These workers will require support, education and possibly assistance with health issues.

Mr President, there are a number of issues which require consideration and comment in the closing arguments including: does the Government have plans for a lead-in time for this legislation to come into effect to allow sex workers to make the necessary life adjustments; what support for sex workers will be provided for those who wish to leave the industry; what support does the Government intend to provide sex workers who choose to remain in or are unable to leave the sex industry; and where do the Government's obligations lie in relation to sex workers who continue to work as self-employed sex workers?

If this legislation is passed and as such continues to make prostitution legal, I do believe the Government has an obligation to provide health and safety information to sex workers. This begs the question of how we know who requires this specific information such as safety issues for escort workers et cetera, if workers are not registered and potentially invisible. Sex workers are obviously at continual risk of sexually transmitted infections. Many of these infections have long- term sequelae and some of these symptoms, including HIV and hepatitis C, can result in death.

I was quite disturbed by some of the comments made in a briefing yesterday in relation to workers in brothels being taught and instructed on how to check their clients for STIs and whilst there are certainly a number of STIs that can be visually determined, there are many that cannot and still remain infectious, and these include genital herpes. I heard on the radio on the way home last night that one in eight Australians carries the herpes virus and an active lesion is not necessary for it to be passed on. HIV, hepatitis B and C and chlamydia often do not have visible symptoms and certainly no doctor would suggest that they could make a diagnosis without an investigation.

The morbidity of some of these infections can have a significant impact on the worker's future health and fertility, even with appropriate treatment. Long-term treatment of some of these infections is costly in monetary terms but also in the medication side effects and social impacts. Even more costly than the health issue is the personal impact cost and particularly that is the issue of psychological health. Sex workers, whether men or women, both within and on exiting the industry, suffer psychological trauma. Many of these will suffer post traumatic stress disorder.

Some members may not be aware of the debilitating effects post traumatic stress disorder can have on an individual, on their family or friends. Flashbacks are common and they may render a person totally unable to function normally. These can occur at any time, at any place and do not always require a trigger. The episode can be extremely frightening for not only the affected person but any witness, which could be a child.

The danger of this occurring whilst driving is apparent. I have spoken to a woman who had a flashback whilst driving and she almost had a serious road accident. It was lucky it was on a country road and she ran off to the side of the road and did not hit anything else. It may require the attention of a skilled medical attendant to help the person back to reality. Many sufferers of post traumatic stress disorder will make attempts on their lives, often more than once, many will self-harm and a number will succeed in ending their lives.

Long-term counselling and medication are often required. Other life experiences many of us take for granted are also affected. These include the opportunity to establish a meaningful personal and/or sexual relationship in the future. The potential effect on future fertility, the ability to allow health care providers to provide appropriate care during pregnancy and whilst giving birth, particularly vaginally, and the ability to breastfeed are some of the issues that these people face.

The costs of these issues are very difficult to measure and education will certainly not prevent them totally from occurring. Whilst I believe it is imperative that education is provided to sex workers regarding health and safety, education should also be provided to the general public to change the attitudes to the way women are portrayed. We do not need legislation to undertake an educative publicity campaign to provide this, education programs that provide key messages not only to men but the whole community that women are not commodities that can be bought and discarded. We will need to investigate education programs that can work towards a change in attitude and culture, a culture that seems to exist that sometimes drives people towards these services.

I have heard on talk-back radio and read in numerous letters to the editor, members of the public saying that prostitution does not hurt anyone or that women choose that lifestyle. These people have obviously not been fully informed of the impact of working in the sex industry and the impact that has on their physical and psychological health. Clearly a thorough and comprehensive educative program is needed to inform the public how women should be viewed but also the damage and harm that this line of work can have.

Many of these workers also have histories that are quite sad - histories of childhood abuse and sexual abuse as well as coming from those areas of disadvantage rather than it being a choice that they make. These people who come from difficult backgrounds, we need to remember, are potentially someone's mother, brother, sister. It is not someone that does not exist, it is a real person, so we do need to change attitudes towards women in our community.

Educative programs such as the Safe at Home project are beginning to do this and they perhaps could be expanded within that area. This legislation also provides clear information about the risks of entering the sex industry, particularly as sex workers have informed us that the industry was portrayed in a very positive light when they were first approached. So this industry needs to do this. I was reading a fashion magazine, Marie Claire , I think it was, whilst waiting in a doctor's surgery or somewhere recently; I did not get the month of the issue. It was promoting prostitution as an exciting prospect, saying that a person would meet lots of exciting, interesting people and improve communication skills, build self-esteem, earn a lot of money, build self-confidence. A young person reading those comments would think, wow, who would not want that kind of job? But the reality seems to be very different.

These people who get involved in the sex industry are often the most vulnerable of our community and they are most likely to have the most trouble leaving the industry if they want to. So having spoken about the need for education, I call on the Government to commit to a reference to the Community Development Committee to investigate and implement exit strategies for sex workers who wish to leave the industry and education programs and packages for the self-employed sex workers to ensure the best possible outcomes for these vulnerable members of the community, as I believe the Government has a responsibility to these sex workers.

If we are to consider the potential for the reduction of the incidence of violence against sex workers, as is suggested as one of the objectives of this legislation, then banning the brothels will go some way to reducing this risk. However, forcing brothels underground where there is no regulation at all and no safety for the mechanisms for sex workers who work in them could clearly have potential disastrous outcomes and in fact increase the risk of violence. Concerns are held that whilst prostitution is legal, violence and the use of damaging practices will occur and if you make it illegal it does not necessarily make them go away. Evidence would suggest that young men are perhaps the more likely perpetrators of violence on women in sexual services. It would seem that young men of today have been exposed to a great deal more pornography and violence through a variety of mediums, including electronic media. Sex workers informed us through their own personal experience that young men would seem to be quite desensitised to this violence and often attend both legal and illegal brothels and expect to be able to live out their wildest, most violent and demeaning fantasies with women, young men and/or children. This will potentially increase the risk of violence to individual sex workers who go to clients, usually alone, without a bouncer or pimp just down the hall to call on. So these women who are working as self-employed sex workers may find themselves even more at risk if that is the case.

There have been some suggestions that both the lack of legislation, resulting in unregulated, illegal brothels and legislation which limits the availability of legal brothels may increase the incidence of rape. There is evidence to suggest this is not the case. Again, education would seem to be the key to this area. Men who rape are not generally or necessarily men who use brothels or buy sex to meet their desire or need. Evidence from around the world suggests the incidence of rape does not occur or in some cases seems to decline with the legislation that decriminalises the buying of sexual services.

The use of illicit drugs would seem more prevalent but not exclusive to brothels than among self-employed sex workers. Drug use in a sexual worker can make them more vulnerable to abuse and to use unsafe sex practices. They would often be unable to be assertive in the use of prophylactics and to avoid the sexual practices which they have not agreed to or have not been paid for. The sex workers who I have spoken with state that this is confirmed with research, that the majority of sex workers will resort to drug use to manage the physical and emotional pain experienced in this work environment. This drug use also helps them dissociate themselves from the experience and to cope with the pain, physical and/or emotional, they experience. Whilst a self-employed sex worker can control her own workload, financial pressures, including an expensive drug habit, may result in an individual worker having to see more clients to meet their financial commitments and thus the use of drugs is not restricted to the sex workers in brothels. At least a single sex worker does have more ability to say how many clients they will see and the extent of the work they do. They can be forced to see many more clients than they would like to in a brothel.

An objective of this bill is also to safeguard public health. Legislation in other States has not adequately addressed issues of public health and welfare of sex workers. Whilst by far the majority of sex workers have great regard for their own health and safety, whose responsibility is it if a client visits a sex worker who does not adequately sterilise equipment or has a sexually transmitted disease? The bill makes it an offence to discourage the use of prophylactics and I assume this means including offering to pay more if they do not use - that would be discouraging the use - to the misuse, damage or interference of the efficacy of a prophylactic or to continue to use a prophylactic that he or she would reasonably know is damaged. This clause will indeed provide the sex worker with the opportunity and legal stance to insist on the use of a prophylactic. However in realistic terms and from advice received from sex workers, in reality it does not always work. It is difficult to check that a condom, for example, has not been removed or damaged during the provision of a sexual service. Threats of violence or use of physical force, especially when the client is bigger and physically stronger than the worker, are often used and sometimes the damage is done before help can arrive.

The other issue of course is the ability of the worker to follow through with a threat to press charges for the non-use, damage or removal of a prophylactic. In many cases, the worker will not know the identity of the client and the concern that pursuing this may potentially increase the risk of violence for a worker who refuses a service which the client may assume they have paid for may negate the intent of this clause. Whilst I agree it is a significant and important offence to legislate, and certainly a deterrent in regard to this, will this clause really meet the health and safety needs of the worker?

The importance of providing safe-sex messages and public health information is relevant, however we do need to introduce legislation to promote and/or inform the public of safe-sex messages. This already occurs and should continue to occur through existing channels. The messages that apply to safe-sex practices for sex workers also apply to other members of the public who choose to engage in a sexual relationship.

As I mentioned previously, specific information targeted at those who work in the industry, such as guidelines and tips to sex workers, particularly escort workers and those going out to hotel rooms or whatever, should be required as part of this legislation and a commitment from the Government to ensure these health measures are provided.

In conclusion, Mr President, I agree the situation exists and has done for centuries and is possibly one of the oldest professions recorded - it is either that or midwifery, apparently. Many women do not consider prostitution to be a profession but rather work done to meet a situation, work which is humiliating, demeaning and perpetuates violence of men towards women.

I acknowledge that regardless of the passage of this legislation or not these activities will continue with all their inherent risks. Sex workers are generally very aware of and strive for good sexual health practice. They deserve to be protected from disease that is often brought to them by clients for whom no health checks are required. I do have reservations about the issues of health and safety for workers, that they may not be adequately addressed in the proposed legislation. The evidence shows that sex workers themselves continue to be victims and are not necessarily protected as violence against women continues.

I agree that this legislation is required particularly to meet the health and safety needs and issues of rights for workers in a currently unregulated twilight environment where the needs and rights of the most vulnerable members of our community are often exposed to exploitation. However I am not convinced this legislation will stop brothels going underground with those inherent risks.

Whilst I think we have to get the best of a situation that has no clear answer and no clear, simple solution, I think this may be a way forward. The reality would seem that the issues of women-trapping and exploitation of women and children in particular will continue, even in the presence of this legislation.

I intend to support this bill into the Committee stage but in doing so I need to be convinced the Government is committed to appropriate exit strategies for workers wishing to leave the industry and education and support for sex workers who remain in the industry.

[12.38 p.m.]

Ms RITCHIE (Pembroke) - Mr President, today we are here to debate what will hopefully be at least an end to this chapter in the efforts of the Government and also, I acknowledge, the Parliament to reform the law with regard to further protection of children, sex workers and the broader community and to strengthen and clarify the laws against persons controlling and profiting from the work of sex workers.

As we know, Mr President, the question of how to deal with the sex industry has endured long-running and intense debate the world over. The honourable member for Rumney, as the member in charge of the bill, has outlined the features of the new bill in her second reading speech to the House. It is no secret, Mr President, that the Government originally sought to approach this issue by regulating commercial sexual services but has since pursued a different model, the model before us today, after the last round of debate in this Chamber.

We of course listened to the views and concerns expressed by honourable members during the course of that last debate and the members of the community, and although the bill we have before us today is not the preferred option, any capacity to increase criminal offences and, most importantly, to increase protections for children and sex workers is, I think, at least better than nothing.

Prostitution, as mentioned by the honourable member for Murchison, is, according to the old cliché, the world's oldest profession. I like to think that parenting is the world's oldest profession but some historians put forward that cliché. They also put forward the view that the origin of prostitution began with temple prostitution in places such as ancient Mesopotamia. It has also been further argued that commercial prostitution evolved from the practices of enslavement and the development of social classes. While I think the slave trade, which we know occurred on the basis of race as well as gender, is something that history has been able to understand in more clear-cut terms and has rightly condemned, I do not think the same can be said of the development of social classes and the regulation of female sexuality. This is something that I think needs to be explored further in understanding this debate. I think that one could well argue that the advent of property and the evolution of class distinction perpetuated the sexual regulation of women. As women were seen as property, the wealthy or more affluent class determined that female virginity would be added to the list of financial assets belonging to the family and was something to be used to advantage by sale or by trade or by whatever other means appropriate. So it really made no difference if you were a prostitute or a virgin: your sexuality was traded nonetheless.

Interestingly, the value of the virgin in the marketplace saw to it that commercial prostitution endured as a social necessity, even to the point where some in the Church justified it. Saint Augustine, for example, is said to have put forward the view, 'Suppress prostitution and capricious lusts will overthrow society'. This, of course, was an argument that sought to serve two means; firstly, to allow the Church to deal with a practical human reality and, secondly, to pigeonhole women into two very distinct groups: the Madonna - the virtuous mother and wife - and the whore - the female, the throwaway receptacle that provided pleasure for men.

Perhaps Thomas Aquinas best summed up the unfortunate thinking behind this two-tiered arrangement with the analogy that sewers are necessary to guarantee the wholesomeness of palaces. Unfortunately this has been a difficult concept for society to shake: the belief that we can feel better about ourselves by downgrading others, the belief that good women are pious and bad women are wanton and never the twain shall meet and this shall determine the social standing of every woman.

While we have made progress in this unfortunate vetting regime, I submit that unfortunately it still operates in our society, even to the extent that not only men but also some women still use this vetting regime to dictate a hierarchical system to distinguish themselves in the community. Women who exhibit confidence in their sexuality or sell their sexual services are often referred to unfavourably as compared to women who do not.

We must seek to engender a cultural shift whereby behaviour and attitudes displayed by people towards each other are not based on any consenting sexual activities undertaken by individuals. As a society we have historically been bombarded with the images of prejudiced stereotypes; that all prostitutes fit the mould of the young, weak and desperate woman who is most likely drug-addicted, dresses in a certain manner and is unable to stand up for herself. I think that in more recent times we have come to understand that sex workers, like in all industries, have a membership that comprises a diverse range of people. I acknowledge that since the majority of consumers who demand sexual services are male, the majority of sex workers are female. However, numbers of male and transgender workers also exist, as we know.

It is interesting to note that to date this concentration on and condemnation of the behaviour of women has affected our capacity to understand and collect information about the role and reasons men are involved in the sex industry, whether as clients or as workers. As we know, Mr President, many sex workers do tend to be younger but we must also be mindful that some people continue to work in the sex industry at a much older age.

There are also many other variables in terms of length of employment. Some are only involved for a short time, some for a long time, and others on a part-time basis while undertaking other jobs or study.

It is also important to understand that there is no one common denominator that determines why an individual enters the sex industry. Having said this, I do acknowledge that economic factors, fear, intimidation and drug-related addictions can feature prominently in the causal factors associated with the decisions of some sex workers to enter the industry. But we must also accept that there are people who may come from relatively affluent backgrounds, or have been employed in other professions, who enter the industry. I think most honourable members would agree that it is no longer fair or accurate to portray people who enter into the sex industry as being under any one single umbrella.

Mr President, the evidence is that we will never be able to eradicate the demand for sexual services. I am not aware that humanity, in all recorded time, has ever known a period of total eradication. So what does a government or society do about this fact? Broadly speaking, there are three options. We criminalise, we regulate or we do nothing - retain the status quo. I think that most members would agree with the government position that it is not acceptable to do nothing. We already know that our attempt to regulate the industry has not been acceptable. We know the views of members and some other people within the community with regard to regulation.

The only option that seems to be before us is the path we are going down now. The new bill seeks to achieve increased protection for workers and children, enable up to two sex workers to operate sexual services, tighten and increase penalties for those attempting to operate a commercial sexual services business and profit from the work of sex workers, tighten and increase the penalties in relation to a person who receives sexual services from a sex worker in a commercial sexual services business, provide increased powers to assist police in their efforts to close down commercial sexual services businesses and to promote safe sex practices in the sex industry and the broader community.

I do have some concerns. This legislation will not go far enough in protecting those sex workers who need it the most. Whilst this bill outlaws commercial operations and allows for self-employed sex workers to continue to operate, we cannot suppose that all sex workers will magically migrate to this type of operation if the legislation is passed in this place.

I know that all honourable members would accept, and I do as well, that there has to be an ongoing concern that we will not be able to provide support to those people who will continue to be involved in an industry that will go further underground.

During the course of this debate we have heard much trumpeting about the Swedish model, and their focus on prosecuting the client. There is, however, conflicting advice as to the success that some claim has been delivered by this model. In spite of supporting views by some, other observers have suggested that what has occurred is just a reorganisation of the sex industry; a restructuring that has forced sex workers and clients to find less visible ways of making contact, and we have heard about the example of sex workers arranging to meet clients over the Internet and the concerns about the potential dangers that this presents for those working in the sex industry.

Concerns have been raised that prostitutes in Sweden are now at greater risk of violence, undertaking unsafe sex and increased economic disadvantage. To date, I am not aware of any definitive assessment of the overall outcomes and impacts of the Swedish approach. I am sure we can all dig up arguments one way or another that favour our own positions about any particular model. However, there is one matter that is beyond dispute; that is the undeniable fact that prostitution has never been eradicated and I do not think will ever be eradicated.

I am not sure that what we are doing here today will have too dissimilar an effect on those workers in Tasmania. It worries me that we will be failing to offer any rights or protections to those workers who will go on working illegally in an unregulated environment. I really hope that Tasmania Police will be able to play an effective and active part in assisting this issue because I think it is going to be really important in the ongoing issues that pertain to this matter. I have no doubt that Tasmania Police will make every effort, as they always do, to carry out their sterling work to assist in the best way they can.

I also flag my hope that additional resources and strategies will be forthcoming in relation to assistance with exit strategies, as has been mentioned by other members in this House. I know the Government is taking them seriously. The Government is considering the types of exit strategies that could be implemented and we do need to do further work on that matter.

Mr President, many people oppose the legalisation or regulation of the sex industry and do so on the basis of a belief that a legalised industry further supports and ingrains control over women and also children. I think that failing to recognise sex workers' rights and criminalising sex work is doing exactly the same thing in reverse by attempting to dictate to sex workers, but particularly women, what the norms will be in terms of when and for what purposes a woman may engage in sexual activity and whether or not money or other forms of currency may change hands.

On the other side of the coin, Mr President, some supporters of regulating the sex industry put forward the belief that a woman has the right to exercise control over her own body, a right that extends to granting sexual access for money. While I accept, and we all know that there are many negative and unsavoury elements associated with the sex industry, I do not feel that we have adequately addressed this aspect of reform.

Mr President, Mao Zedong once said, 'All genuine knowledge originates in direct experience'. Perhaps it is for this reason that communities and law-makers have found the sex industry such a difficult topic to grapple with. It has also perhaps been our social fears and the existence of ineffective channels of communication and poor collection of information that has contributed to the unsatisfactory situation in which we presently find ourselves.

Mr President, I am sure that no member of parliament would start to pretend that this legislation or any other piece of legislation was going to be perfect. I am always interested to see how these issues come full circle. In the seventeenth century the practice of visiting prostitutes was so widespread that guidebooks to brothels were produced and men could claim visits to prostitutes on their tax returns. In Ancient Greece prostitutes enjoyed a very high social status. Mr President, it is clear that many States and nations around the world have been and still are attempting to find their way in terms of dealing with the sex industry.

For me, when I think about the sex industry, I cannot help but think of George Bernard Shaw's play Pygmalion and some people will hopefully know the plot of that play; a professor taking a young flower girl and developing her into a lady. There is a quote where Eliza Doolittle, the flower girl-cum-lady, says:

'the difference between a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves, but how she's treated. I shall always be a flower girl to Professor Higgins, because he always treats me as a flower girl, and always will; but I know I can be a lady to you, because you always treat me as a lady, and always will.'

Mr President, I believe that this is the key to this debate. It is so important that we shift the issues surrounding sex workers from being one of sexuality and ethics to one of industrial relations and working conditions. I think not to do so means that we retain a system whereby sex workers' consensual sexual activity, whether or not there is genuine intimacy or not, continues to be the factor that defines that person, the factor that equates to that person's net worth and social standing.

Mr President, as I have already said, I do not believe that we are achieving improvements in regard to this issue today and the Government would have preferred a regulatory model. However, as the honourable member for Rowallan has correctly said in his contribution today, we cannot continue to procrastinate and I genuinely hope that this bill will deliver some of the many important outcomes that we originally set out to address, issues such as violence, intimidation, child exploitation and dealing with those unscrupulous characters who find their way into the industry. That is the basis upon which I am supporting this bill.

[12.55 p.m.]

Mrs SMITH (Montgomery) - Mr President, I rise to support the Sex Industry Offences Bill 2005 and I might say to support many of the contributions that have been made here this morning from members.

I accept that what we do in legislation is the art of the achievable. I think the Minister for Justice made a very sound judgment, albeit with some criticism in the community, when she accepted something that we quite often call on politicians to do and that is to listen and then when they do and make other decisions we suddenly criticise things that are seen as a total roundabout.

Governments have policies. They attempt to implement those policies. I have always worked on the basis that if they are strongly promoted in the community at election time, the community is well aware of the direction the Government is taking. If they are not strongly promoted, the community has very correctly opportunities through processes to have their opinions heard. I think what we saw earlier this year was a minister who put forward a piece of legislation and, like many pieces of legislation when they come forward, that is when there is significant opportunity for people to have input. That input, not only in this House but in the community, is acknowledged in the first paragraph of the honourable member's second reading speech.

The minister listened to the concerns of the community and has done something we do not often see politicians do because quite often you see governments entrench themselves into a certain position and it is that or nothing. I compliment a minister who did have a position, did have a concern, attempted one way to address some of those concerns, made a judgment call that it was not achievable and thus has taken a different direction in an attempt to solve some of the issues that are out there in the community.

If you look at the issue of the sex industry, Mr President, there are probably, as we stand in time at the moment here, four ways to go. The purists out there would tell you we should ban all sex workers. We do not live in a world of being able to achieve a purist process so we have to say that is not achievable. It does not matter how anyone may feel about the sex workers and their industry, it is never going to be achievable. It has not been in the past and it will not be into the future so the purists' solution of banning all sex workers is not going to happen. Most members would have been like me and have reams of papers of opinions from people. I support what the member for Rowallan says, that if you go out into the community, in the streets, it is not the big issue it is to those who have a particular interest at a particular time. But that is no different to any of the other bills that we have in this place where it is exceptionally important to specific interest groups and they are the people that we hear as we work through it.

The second option was the status quo: do nothing with the bill that is sitting on the Notice Paper, do nothing by introducing this particular bill and live with the status quo, and we are told the status quo does not work. It has been proved on many occasions the status quo does not work. When we are told the stories that are out there and we asked the police in the briefings why they did not do something about it, they told us quite plainly that they did not have the capacity. It was not financial capacity, I believe, because if a government dictates you will do something about this industry it is the responsibility of the police to do it and the responsibility of government to put the funds there for them to do it, but quite clearly in law the status quo was not going to solve the problems that were put forward to the parliament, so the status quo was not an option, Mr President.

We have still a bill on the Notice Paper, debate on which was adjourned by the member for Elwick. That was, and still is, another option - it is a fact of life it still sits on the Notice Paper - or we have the option we are looking at today and that is the status quo but giving it some teeth to be policed, and that is really what this bill is about.

Sitting suspended from 1 p.m. to 2.30 p.m.