Parliament’s Upper House public gallery was packed as members spoke on Greens MLC Tammy Franks’ Sex Work Law Reform Bill for over five hours.
Sixteen voted for the Bill on the second reading vote, while Liberal MPs Terry Stephens, Rob Lucas, Jing Lee and Dennis Hood, along with Labor’s Clare Scriven, voted against.
It will return to a vote on the third reading in the Legislative Council later today, with Franks confident the numbers will remain strong, despite some members who voted to allow further debate flagging they would change their deciding vote.
Franks said it was a “big win” and was confident the Bill would not only pass the Legislative Council but the Lower House when Parliament resumed in July after the winter break.
“This vote reflected community attitudes,” she told InDaily.
“We have some of the most archaic laws in the nation, but we’re in 2019 and people know sex work does exist and will exist into the future.
“We really need modern laws to address that.”
But Scriven said she was disappointed with the vote.
She said she had sex work “survivors” campaigning with her against the proposed legislation, which she dubbed the “Pimps Protection Bill”.
“Women had told me about being forced into sex acts they hadn’t agreed to, being raped, being bashed – brothel owners threatening them if they called the police,” she said.
“They said decriminalisation had given none of the promised benefits to the women in prostitution, just increased the violence against them from the sex buyers, and provided protection for the pimps and brothel owners.
“Survivors have asked me why no-one cares about what they have been through, about the lived experiences of prostitution under decriminalisation. “
The Sex Work Law Reform Bill targets the Criminal Law Consolidation Act by removing references and offences relating to prostitution, and the Summary Offences Act by removing offences such as soliciting, living on the earnings of prostitution and offences relating to brothels.
The legislation will now progress into the Committee stage where Upper House members will go through the Bill’s details and clauses to address concerns.
These included sex workers advertising, operating as street workers in high-density areas such as Hanson Road, and police having a right of entry on premises.
“The concerns raised were quite valid, which surround advertising and controls on particularly outdoor advertising and public space advertising.” Franks said.
“The other issue is while there is a range of public nuisance and order laws that are actually available for policing Hanson Road, and we hope this is an opportunity to not treat street workers as criminals but also as people in need of social supports or housing, of other ways to not be in such a vulnerable position.
“We want to examine the police’s role [as] the police believe adult consensual activity, taking place on a premises, asking for the change of money, would no longer necessitate the police being able to enter that premises.”
Franks believes the Bill will pass despite opposition from Labor’s conservative Right faction.
“The state of Don Dunstan is no longer shackled by the powers of (faction leader) Don Farrell,” she said.
She was not concerned about the influence of Opposition Leader and Right faction member Peter Malinauskas.
“Peter, I understand, has concerns about street work and some concerns about sex work in general,” she said.
“I think he is a reasonable man, through his work particularly through Corrections Minister has shown he does understand people that are criminalised deserve second chances and deserve a hearing.”
Liberal Minister Michelle Lensink voted for the Bill but said its success was not guaranteed.
“I have been a passionate supporter of this issue for a long time – it’s an accumulative effort on behalf of a number of people over the years, including former Labor Member of Parliament Steph Key,” she said.
“It’s really exciting that the second reading vote was overwhelming endorsed last night in the Upper House but there is still some work to do.”
*The first published version of this story implied the Bill had passed the Upper House; last night’s vote was the second reading of the Bill, with the third reading to come.
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