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'Home' brothels banned under new laws; BEN HARVEY STATE POLITICAL EDITOR, The West Australian November 26, 2010

Sex workers would be licensed and fingerprinted and police given expanded powers to regulate the sex trade, including the right to close suburban homes suspected of being brothels, under the latest bid to regulate WA's sex industry. The Department of Racing, Gaming and Liquor would determine who was allowed to operate brothels or work as prostitutes and local councils would dictate where brothels could open, with a legislated ban within 100m of homes and 200m of schools and churches.

Attorney-General Christian Porter yesterday flagged new laws which will give WA Police the lead role in stopping the unrestricted expansion of an industry which comprises an estimated 1700 sex workers and 38 brothels.

He hoped to introduce legislation in the first half of next year.

"The Liberal-National Government recognises that there is no utopian solution to this issue and it is not interested in pursuing legislation which will satisfy the sex industry or any other interest groups," he told the Legislative Assembly.

The new laws, which draw heavily on Carpenter government legislation which the Liberals opposed three years ago, would weed out criminal elements by forcing prostitutes and brothel owners to be finger and palm-printed and pass strict background checks.

The penalty for operating or managing an unlicensed brothel would be up to three years imprisonment and illegal businesses would be further discouraged by their clients facing $6000 fines and up to a year in jail, Mr Porter said.

He said the changes would address the increase in suburban "micro-brothels", in which one or two women work from a private home, by giving police the power to issue closure notices if they had reasonable grounds to believe prostitution was occurring.

Councils must prove prostitution is occurring before they can use planning laws to shut an operation, which WA Local Government Association president Troy Pickard said was unworkable. Mr Pickard welcomed the extra police powers. Shadow attorney-general John Quigley said the Liberal policy used key elements of a Labor plan the party rejected in opposition.

"Current Police Minister Rob Johnson claimed (in Opposition) using the Department of Racing, Gaming and Liquor to licence the industry was akin to licensing a trade in human flesh," Mr Quigley said.

Mr Johnson said yesterday he supported Mr Porter's plan.

Acting Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said officers had certain powers under the Prostitution Act 2000 to deal with street and child prostitution but there was no legislation regulating brothels.

Brothels have presented a headache for police for years because, while prostitution is legal, living off the earnings of a prostitute, as brothel owners do, is against the law.

A discredited policy of containment operates, under which police turn a blind eye to some brothels.

The head of sex worker advocacy Scarlet Alliance, Janelle Fawkes, said any requirement for sex workers to be fingerprinted would drive the industry underground.

She predicted very few women would volunteer to be registered. Langtrees brothel madam Anne Forrester was broadly supportive of the new laws, saying communities would be safer.

The West Australian © link to original article