Parliamentary Inquiry Into Brothel Regulation And Government Response Completely Fails The Most Vulnerable

Labor MLC for Hornsby, Greg Donnelly has strongly criticised the findings of the Parliamentary Inquiry into Brothel Regulation and the Baird Government’s response for utterly failing some of the most vulnerable in our community.

The Legislative Assembly’s Select Committee on the Regulation of Brothels reported to the Parliament in November last year. The Baird Government’s response was made on 9th May via the Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation, Victor Dominello MP.

Greg Donnelly said that what he finds unbelievable is the wilful blindness on the part of both the Select Committee vested with the responsibility to thoroughly look at the matter and the Baird Government’s response. If you read the findings of the inquiry’s report and the government’s response, you would be left to conclude that there is little to be concerned about with respect to prostitution in New South Wales.

“I invite anyone who believes that there is nothing to be concerned about to read the insightful evidence given by the then Deputy Commissioner, NSW Police, Nick Kaldas and Commander Glen McEwen and Detective Superintendent Steven Mewburn from the Australian Federal Police. Their evidence should disembroil anybody who naively thinks prostitution is just like any other business”, said Greg Donnelly.

The evidence from the Deputy Commissioner was that the likely number of brothels in New South Wales was around 340. In reality, as there is no central record kept of each establishment, nobody really knows. The Deputy Commissioner made particular comment about the issue of sexual servitude and the consistent reporting that is alleging large scale networks using Asian students as sex slaves throughout New South Wales and other states and territories. He mentions the scenario of women being forced to do things they do not want to do, including the taking of hard drugs with clients during sessions. He also cited anecdotal evidence of some brothel owners keeping the passports of women and forcing them to service clients to pay off their debt for travel costs etc. There is also the issue of women being pressured to work extremely long hours and seeing large numbers of clients. Specific reference is made to the use of violence, or threats of violence, to keep women in check. The growing use of Asian massage and karaoke venues to expand the outreach of prostitution in the state is well understood. Evidence of the involvement of some outlaw motorcycle gang groups with ties to brothels was listed as a concern.

Quoting directly from the Deputy Commissioner’s evidence:

“The results from our analysis and thinking indicate that there are clearly issues in the industry in terms of servitude, the use of illegal workers and extortion by or involvement of organised outlaw motorcycle gang groups. Around 40 brothels have some recorded connection or ties to outlaw motorcycle gang groups in our intelligence holdings.”

 The evidence given by the Australian Federal Police to the inquiry was equally chilling. Both the Australian Federal Police Commander and Detective Superintendent who gave evidence to the inquiry examined in detail the issue of sex trafficking.

Other evidence provided to the inquiry focused on the impact on individuals, mainly women, involved in prostitution. One piece of research cited by a witness to the inquiry from NSW Health referenced a study by three academics who:

“…interviewed 72 female street-based sex workers [in the greater Sydney area] and found that just under half of the sample met the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder. All but one of the street-based sex workers interviewed reported experiencing trauma, with the majority reporting multiple traumas that typically began in early childhood. Injecting drug use was highly prevalent in this sample.”

“You would think that the evidence cited above, and this is just a sample, would prompt politicians of all political persuasions to vigorously demand that the matters raised in the inquiry be thoroughly examined and reported on to the Parliament. However, there is nothing but silence in Macquarie Street.

“Even if the Baird Government did nothing but fund the establishment of comprehensive exit programs for women wanting to leave prostitution, that would be a worthwhile and meaningful initiative”, said Greg Donnelly.

“All is not well in the so-called “sex industry” in New South Wales. It is a dirty little secret that is not little nor secret. The failure to face-up to and seriously take on the issues of sexual servitude, intimidation, violence, drug and alcohol abuse, sex trafficking and organised crime in the area of prostitution, reflects badly on the body politic of this state.

 “Far from being the end of the matter the Parliamentary Inquiry into Brothel Regulation report and the Baird Government’s response should be considered as the start of an honest and frank debate about a number of significant issues associated with prostitution in this state”, Greg Donnelly said.

For access to the inquiry report and Government response, visit the Legislative Assembly Select Committee on the Regulation of Brothels webpage at https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/committees/listofcommittees/Pages/committee-details.aspx?pk=185.