Local MLA Remains Wary About Prostition Reforms

South Perth MLA John McGrath believes all local governments will have to remain vigilant about the possibility of a rise in prostitution in suburban areas under the new statutory reforms. 

The intention has been that with the decriminalisation of prostitution, a framework will be in place to regulate, monitor and protect those involved in the profession,” Mr McGrath said,

“However, the model is far from foolproof. It is a major concern of mine that the new regime will encourage the growth of small owner-operated establishments (of one or two workers), as these businesses do not have to be certified and do not have to get approval to operate under the Act.

“The real sticking point for me with this legislation was that it would lead to smaller unlicenced one or two-operator brothels setting up.”

The Prostitution Amendment Bill 2007 (WA) was introduced into the Legislative Assembly on 29 September 2007 and received Royal Assent on 14 April 2008. Certified sexual services businesses will be regulated in WA by local governments and the Department of Racing and Gaming.

The new model requires certification of businesses that provide ‘sexual services’ except where those services are provided by individuals or ‘small owner-operated businesses’. Small owner-operated businesses are defined as a sexual service business with no more than two workers, who each have full control over their fee earnings.

Mr McGrath consulted a range of individuals after the Bill was first introduced, both those involved in the industry and from the general public.

“The feedback I received from the community and industry indicated that the nature of the profession is such that many sex workers value their anonymity in the profession and do not want to be on a formal register. Those who do not want to have this employment recorded will seek alternatives – such as setting up alone or just with one other worker,” Mr McGrath said,

“The feedback I received led me to the conclusion that I could not support this legislation. I spoke to this effect during the second reading speech, raising my concern that many workers would be forced to operate on their own, outside the scope of the Act, and therefore without the health and security benefits promised as collaterals of these reforms.”

Mr McGrath warned regulators that they would not be able to sit back and merely screen applicant’s paperwork.

“There needs to be proactive monitoring and review of the impact that the new laws will have on industry management and growth,” he said.

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