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New push to decriminalise sex work in SA

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A 14th attempt to decriminalise sex work in South Australia is already being planned, only weeks after the latest Bill was killed off in Parliament.

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Greens MLC Tammy Franks, who spearheaded the last attempt, said sex work law reform supporters aimed to present another Bill after the abortion law reform was debated in March.

Franks told InDaily that this time she will not personally lead the renewed push, but was “having conversations with several MPs” who are “very keen to step up to take leadership on sex work law reform.”

“I’m happy to work with all members of every party to make this happen,” she said.

“I don’t need to have my name on a Bill for the decriminalisation of sex workers to support it; I’ll consider that at the time.”

Franks had championed sex law reform in a private members bill which supporters had hoped might finally succeed where all others had failed.

But the bill, which was changed along the process to include amendments opposing full tests, was defeated 24 votes to 19 in a conscience vote in the House of Assembly on November 13.

All but two Labor MPs affiliated with the party’s Labor Unity faction – Dana Wortley and John Gee – voted no.

First-term Right-aligned frontbencher Jayne Stinson was absent in a pair arrangement with Liberal Nick McBride, and is listed on the pairing form as a vote in favour of the Bill.

Premier Steven Marshall voted for the Bill, while Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas voted against.

Franks would not disclose which Labor MPs were interested in making a 2020 bid to decriminalise sex work, but said they “recognise the need for stronger Labor voices in the debate”.

“The key is to ensure it’s a cross-party effort,” she said.

After the vote two weeks ago, Malinauskas told InDaily he acted on the advice of his constituents, and the Labor Party “seeks to represent a cross-section of interests throughout our community, unlike the Greens, who are a minority party”.

Malinauskas said today he would need to see any new Bill before commenting.

Attorney-General Vickie Chapman said she was disheartened that parliament had killed the latest Bill before it passed the second reading stage allowing for more debate and amendments, but said she looked forward to a new attempt.

“While I respect the views of my Parliamentary colleagues, it’s disappointing the Parliament denied this Bill passing to the committee stage a few weeks ago,” she said.

“This Parliament has an important role to play in considering all laws, including difficult social reform issues.

“If Tammy Franks is considering introducing a new Bill next year, I look forward to seeing it and working with my colleagues to see the best result for sex workers.”

Franks said the planned new Bill would examine decriminalisation law in other jurisdictions.

“The Northern Territory has just provided us with a perfectly good working model of decriminalisation, which has the support of a broad range of stakeholders there, including, for example, the Police Association in that state,” she said of the legislation which passed in Darwin this week.

“It’s actually a Bill that went out for substantial government consultation, and has some really innovative aspects to it, like the ability for a sex worker to withdraw consent, that is clarified in law.

“We can learn from the experiences of Victoria and the Northern Territory, in particular, and improve the bill.”

Franks hoped MPs who voted down the last Bill would be “more willing to engage” with a new draft.

“Many of the parliament members are actually new members and this is one of the first tests of a conscience vote,” she said.

“You don’t get law reform if you don’t put these things up for debate and you are not defeated by the loss of one set of votes, you come back and you start again, and work step by step, conversation by conversation, and break down mythology and erroneous assumptions.”

Sex Industry Decriminalisation Action Committee coordinator Georgia Thain said she wanted MPs to consider the issues with an open mind.

“We are optimistic that South Australian MPs, especially the 15 non-supportive MPs that did not meet SIDAC, SIN or any sex worker constituents during the process of the last bill, will stop ignoring the wealth of evidence available that supports decriminalisation and we are confident they will start listening to the lived experiences of current South Australian sex workers,” she said.

“The Sex Industry Decriminalisation Action Committee remains hopeful that sex workers’ voices will be heard and centred in legislation about their lives.”

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