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Prostitution - a risky business

By Lyle Shelton - posted Wednesday, 28 September 2005


After five years, Queensland's fledgling legal brothel sector has failed to bring illegal prostitution in from the cold.

According to a government-initiated review by the Crime and Misconduct Commission, illegal prostitution continues "unabated" in Queensland with illegal prostitution making up 75 per cent of the sex trade.

The report, Regulating Prostitution (pdf file 678KB), details failures in the health checking system for workers, a botched exit program to assist women out of the industry, and a blossoming illegal escort sector.

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All of the above was supposed to be fixed or curbed by the Prostitution Act, 1999. A reluctant reformer of the sex trade, Premier Peter Beattie sounded genuine five years ago when he told a community gathering in Toowoomba he wished men would not use prostitutes.

The problem would be dealt with in Queensland by the nation's most restrictive brothel laws, limiting venues to five rooms and a regime of strict health and safety checks, he said.

But now, because of the Prostitution Act's failure to curb the illegal industry, the CMC is considering recommendations to legalise escort prostitution from legal brothels and to water down the once trumpeted health checks, a move that can only reduce safety for workers and clients alike.

Now that brothel owners have been legitimised, this once despised section of society's underbelly is now free to lobby for changes to their industry out in the open. Recent CMC public hearings in Brisbane into legalising escort services became a surreal forum for this new group of Smart State entrepreneurs - the predominantly male licensees of Queensland's legal brothels.

In a long-since banished era of civil society, these men were called 'pimps'. But in Beattie's Queensland the profiteers of the trade in women's bodies have been brought in from the shadows and been given a seat at the table.

Crying foul against illegal escort operators who are advertising in newspapers and the Yellow Pages with impunity, the licensees told CMC chair Robert Needham they simply couldn't compete.

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Their submissions to the CMC boil down to: "Give us more girls so we can make more money."

Smugly, they assume they have won the argument for legalised prostitution. It goes like this. Prohibition does not work, prostitution will always be with us. We might as well try and make it legal and safe.

Gullible politicians and media have swallowed this line. But try that logic with the prohibition on car stealing, drink driving or pedophilia. Technically, none of these prohibitions has worked. But they minimise social harm and teach the young what is right, another banished concept in today's postmodern world.

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About the Author

Lyle Shelton is Managing Director of the Australian Christian Lobby based in Canberra.

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