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Players in Tasmanian Sex Industry Reform - 2005

The current laws criminalising brothels in 2005 were developed with a number of players - sex workers, religious right, lesbian anti-sex work activists, the Greens, The Tasmanian AIDS and Hepatitis Council and the Government.

Tasmania is a small island state with a population less than half a million people. The Tamanian Labor Governments' anti-sex work laws introduced in 2005, including the criminalisation of brothels were not supported by the sex industry. There were very few brothels in Tasmania (less than 50) and the changes have severely reduced sex workers options by criminalising workplaces.

Since the introduction of the laws there has been no education process which enables the sex industry to understand (or even be aware of) the new laws.

The process for the development of sex industry laws was problematic -

Scarlet Alliance, Tasmanian sex workers and brothel owners briefed members of the upper house early in the week of the vote. Before the briefing the upper house members discussed the new Bill for hours. What was missing from their discussion was any interest in the well being of sex workers or any concerns that sex workers may have. What was represented in their discussion was that they had bought the stereotypes - Clients are the bad guys only second to the thugs who run brothels and that sex workers are unfortunate damaged mindless individuals who are exploited.

See below for the friends and foes of Tasmanian Sex Workers

Catholic Women of Tasmania They lobbied hard for criminalisation of the sex industry, and sourced information from Linda Watson and Sheila Jeffreys to build their anti-sex worker platform. They also received a briefing from Project Respect which included unreferenced reports of the success of Swedens’ anti-sex work laws. (For a detailed survey of the harms that Swedens’ laws have caused against sex workers, see Petra Oestergen). Shirley Woods from Project Respect told the Tasmanian Catholic Womens League that removing criminal barriers against sex workers "led to a rise in the illegal sex trade and encouraged the slavery of Asian and other women in the state." see the Tasmanian Catholic Womens League arguments.

Linda Watson Ex-brothel madam, and now spends her time kissing the pope and getting funding from the Catholic Church to denounce sex work. "I was so nervous that when I went to kiss his ring I couldn't find it so I kissed his hand instead." (quote from News Ltd article 19/9/04). She has promoted the unfounded statistic that 90% of sex workers are drug addicts. She also publicly stated at to a meeting of Joondalup City Council in 2003 that sex workers don't use condoms, which illicited a loud response from a former work colleague of hers who yelled out "That's a lie, we all use condoms and you did as well." The Street Based Sex Worker Outreach Project of Western Australia (SWOPWA) also loudly asked Linda if sex workers don't use condoms, where do the 80,000 condoms they distribute a year go? These arguments have not stopped Linda from repeating her unfounded remarks, including more recently to Upper House members of the Tasmanian parliament, as documented by the Festival of Light Magazine: "Linda is now playing a key role in exposing the abuse of women. She is also in demand as a speaker - she recently adressed meetings in Tasmania where MP's are considering yet another bill to legalise brothels. "I just tell MPs about the damage prostitution does to women," Linda says. "I ask them if they would want that kind of life for their own daughters or grand-daughters. I have a feeling the bill will not pass" Download the full article (PDF)

Judy Jackson All I can say is that it's illegal, that people who run these places are now on notice that they are illegal and they will be closed down and they will be severely punished. The penalties in this legislation are quite severe and so it'll be on their head if they continue this illegal practice. Read the full story

Sheila Jeffreys, "(Tasmania) can actually be on the side of progress and get involved in closing down this form of men's abusive behaviour." You briefed the Legislative Council yesterday. What sort of a reception did you get? "I got a very good reception actually. I think everybody is really concerned. I think a lot of people don't understand what's actually happening in the brothels. They don't know what's going on because it's often held out to be a perfectly fine industry, a job like any other." Read the full story.

Scarlet Alliance, the Australian Sex Worker Association

Scarlet Alliance originally wrote a submission to the Attorney General, Judy Jackson on early proposed changes to the Tasmanian Sex Industry Regulation Bill 2004 Download PDF version As well as arguing for the recognition of industrial and workplace rights for sex workers, the submission also asks that the Tasmanian Government move toward funding services to sex workers in Tasmania. Tasmania is the only Australian state or territory without a funded sex worker organisation and as such no dedicated HIV/AIDS or STI education to workers in sex industry. Now that the entire industry is going to be effectively criminalised, the need for a dedicated sex worker organisation is even greater.

Tasmanian AIDS and Hepatitis Council

The proposed blanket banning of brothels will reduce our capacity to effectively work with sex workers and punters in relation to safe sex and injecting drug use. This latest backflip reeks of moral judgements which can only lead to increased risks for sex workers. All it will do is force brothels further underground, making everyone's job a lot harder. Link to the full media release

Tasmanian Greens and MLA Nick McKim

Attorney-General Judy Jackson's about face on Tasmania's sex industry could be worse than previously thought with increased powers apparently given to police in relation to listening devices and compelling witnesses to give evidence. Police were already given too many powers in the original Bill, and by the sounds of it the amendments will only make matters worse. Link to full Nick McKim Media Release

Updated 20th October 2005