Government Whip in the Legislative Council

Liberal Member in the Parliament of South Australia

 

Murray

Speeches

Statutes Amendment (Decriminalisation of Sex Work) Bill

Wednesday 9 September, 2015

I rise today to speak to the Statutes Amendment (Decriminalisation of Sex Work) Bill. This bill is a matter of conscience for Liberal members of this place. Indeed, it has been introduced into this place by my colleague the Hon. Michelle Lensink, in tandem with the honourable member for Ashford in the other place who has attempted to pass similar legislation in the other place to no avail. I indicate from the outset that I will be opposing this bill for a number of reasons, but fundamentally because of the moral and social implications of legitimising and endorsing such a vocation for the sons and daughters of South Australia. I commend the Hon. Mr Hood for his comprehensive contribution on this bill. Whilst my contribution will not be as long as his, I believe he did raise a number of good points. I do not wish to rehash those, but I will comment on what I see are other problems not only with decriminalising sex work but also with this bill specifically. One of the justifications for law reform around sex work is that it is apparently one of the oldest professions in the world and that it will continue to be part of societies of all types. Many say that it is as old as the human condition itself. However, sex work has rarely, if ever, been an open, legitimate profession in society, and for good reason. No parent would want their children choosing prostitution as a career, and why is this? Social stigma aside, it is an industry which is marginalised because of both the clientele it attracts and the desperate souls who have been drawn to or coerced into this kind of work. It is a dangerous profession both physically and mentally. However, there is no escaping that in decriminalising this activity we are saying that we as a parliament are happy for South Australians to pursue this. It is legitimising this profession. If honourable members in this place are happy for this bill to pass on that basis and are using the argument that this legislation is necessary to protect prostitutes from violence and other associated risks with this line of work, I want to say to them: where are their protections? Why is there no regulation of brothels and of solicitation when and where it can occur? All this bill does is prevent sex workers from being arrested which, from my understanding, occurs rarely anyway. Prostitutes and brothel owners refusing to call police out to an incident for fear of retribution or arrest is counterintuitive and the decriminalising of one illegal and demeaning behaviour to reduce the occurrence of another is completely illogical. We have heard from the Hon. Mr Hood that similar legislative changes in New South Wales have not actually reduced incidents of violence against prostitutes, but what it has done is actually proliferate the number of sex workers and the number of brothels in New South Wales. There can be no doubt that this line of work brings with it more illegal activity. Prostitution will always remain within the seedy underbelly of society. Drugs and violence go hand in hand with sex work. Why then would we want to exacerbate the problem in South Australia? We have major problems with unemployment in South Australia, especially in the north of Adelaide. If this line of work is decriminalised, how many more desperate people will turn to it as a result? Is this really the path we want to go down here in this state? I have received a lot of correspondence on this issue, and it is unanimous in its opposition to decriminalisation. There are concerns that there will be no enforcement on public solicitation, no laws on when and where a brothel can operate, as well as the concern that I have already mentioned—that this will not lead to a reduction in violence or a safer environment for prostitutes. These concerns are valid, given what we have heard occurs on a daily basis in both New South Wales and New Zealand, whose laws are more stringent than what is being proposed here. Almost all these concerned citizens have suggested adopting the Swedish model, which actually makes the purchasing of sexual services illegal rather than the selling of services legal. This may be worth exploring, as it has the positive effect of drying up demand, destroying the business model of pimps, and giving prostitutes a chance to leave this soul-destroying occupation, whilst also preventing the exploitation of some for the gratification of others. However, I have not seen the detail of this so-called Swedish model, and a debate on its merits is for another day. The voting down of this bill will send a clear message to all South Australians that prostitution is not acceptable in civilised society, and I implore all members in this place to do so. Given that I have a strong opposition to this particular bill, I will not be supporting a select committee.

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