Statutes Amendment (Decriminalisation of Sex Work) Bill

09 Sep 2015 newsparliamentspeech

Adjourned debate on second reading.

(Continued from 29 July 2015.)

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK  ( 21:56 :20 ): I will try to be as brief as possible, given the hour, and thank honourable members for their contributions. There have been quite a number, so I will not name you all but do thank you for putting your remarks on the record. It has been a very diverse and very worthwhile debate.

I said in my second reading that the motivation for this bill is to address a legal framework which does not work from a policing perspective or from the workers' perspective. Since the campaign for reform began in this batch earlier this decade, I have heard people in the industry speak many times about the discrimination that they face. The most disturbing cases are the ones in which they have been subject to violence and criminal acts but are too afraid to go to the police. This bill is a decriminalised model, as I went through in my second reading. Perhaps it has not been adequately articulated, but it certainly does not mean no regulation.

At the risk of repeating a few of the comments that have been made in relation to a few issues, in relation to trafficking, as has been said, there are federal laws which are managed by the Australian Federal Police and also SAPOL, but there are also very strict laws at a state level which came in when the Hon. Trevor Griffin was the attorney-general. Trafficking, sexual servitude and all those issues, deceptive recruiting for commercial services, use of children in commercial sexual services and so on are under division 12 of the Criminal Law Consolidation Act, and I would urge honourable members to examine those for the detail of the imprisonment terms to which people could be subject if they engage in those practices, but they clearly already exist.

Local government seems to be one area that has also been raised. I would have to concur in many ways with a number of the comments of the Hon. Stephen Wade about this process and also the Hon. Mr Dawkins who said that, in his experience as a private member, advocating for private members' bills which are conscience votes can be I think the word he used was a 'lonely' process. Certainly, in opposition you do not always have access to all the agencies that one might like so, for that reason among others, I think it will be useful to have a select committee which will have the authority to be able to call witnesses from various government agencies, which I have not necessarily had the authority to do.

On the issue of local government, the Hon. Steph Key has received a reply from the Local Government Association in which they have raised two specific issues: one was the location of sex work premises in residential areas, the second being the regulation of soliciting. In public comments I have indicated that these are certainly areas that we would consider further in potential amendments to the bill.

However, I think there has been some alarm spread via certain people who are elected members in local councils. If I point the finger anywhere, it is at the right of the Labor Party. Some of the issues that have been raised in local councils, quite frankly, are quite spurious. Port Adelaide Enfield, in particular, has raised a number of issues and they conveniently ignore the fact that there continues to be regulation via a number of sections within existing legislation, which is not being proposed to be amended.

For instance, on the issue of sex work and allegations of illegal activity, they may avail themselves of part 3B of the Criminal Law Consolidation Act; with street work, they could avail themselves of an offence against public order under part 3 of the Summary Offences Act; and, in relation to brothels, there are a number of sections within existing legislation that they could also avail themselves of.

I think it has also been put about in the local government sector that somehow this piece of legislation is transferring responsibility to local government, which is not the case. I find local government sometimes a curious creature. I had the experience in previous private members' legislation, particularly the shacks bill, which was to provide that those shacks which are on crown land would be effectively transferred to the care, control and management of their local council areas, because we had two councils that had asked for that particular thing, and it was going to be an optional thing.

I specifically wrote to those councils which had crown leases in their areas and was quite shocked and amazed at some of the responses I got back. I think it is fair to say that sometimes these things are considered by councils without proper legal advice. The argument was a little bit similar to the one that has come on this. You cannot tell sometimes with local government whether they want more power or less power, because in this instance, in relation to this bill before us, they are saying they want less power because it is going to be more resources for them to police, even though it is hard for them to point to a specific statute somewhere where you can say that that is now their responsibility.

In relation to the shacks, I had one council write back to me and say, 'We don't want this because people might actually ask for it,' so in other words, 'It's all too hard.' Quite frankly, they cannot have it both ways: they want more powers and they do not want more powers when it does not suit them. We certainly hope to engage with councils to have those discussions with them.

Returning to these comments, decriminalisation is favoured by the industry, as has been said. Amnesty International, South Australian women's advocacy organisations, which are part of significant global organisations, the YWCA, Soroptimist, BPW and Zonta are all very well regarded and they have articulated their position, which relates to this legislation.

Like other honourable members, I have received opposition to this bill from people who believe that it will increase the incidence of sex work in South Australia. I do not agree with that premise and I do not believe any research supports it. Others have raised the fact that elements of a legalised model are not contained in the bill. I think there is a fair amount of muddying the waters by pointing at various aspects of things which certain people say are omitted and therefore the bill is unacceptable.

One of these is, for instance, whether safe sex practices are mandated. There are a whole suite of things that come through legalised models. A lot of those suggestions come from a misunderstanding of the industry and the way that sex industry workers work. I think they are often well intentioned, but are often quite paternalistic.

I think this bill is fairly well considered, and I reject the comments made by the Hon. Mr Brokenshire that this has been rushed. This bill has, in various forms, been advocated by the Hon. Steph Key in the last three or four years and we had a version of it before us in 2012. Clearly, the Hon. Mr Brokenshire has had the advantage of having examined a range of models.

I brought this to a second reading because I thought it was important that the Legislative Council consider it, but was not going to pursue the committee stage on the same day because I think there are a number of issues we do need to examine in more detail, and I think the committee will adequately do that.

So we have been presented with it, as a group of people. I did actually take the initiative of contacting some members of this place who I thought might feel a bit rushed, whether they were new members or people who might be unsure. They were across different parties, but they all indicated that they were accepting of doing second readings on this day. I have attempted not to rush people, and I reject that criticism. I am also not quite sure what on earth the Hon. Mr Brokenshire was referring to when he said that there was some rule in our party room that might prevent me from introducing it. That is a mystery to all of us on this side of the chamber.

I do think this is a fairly well-considered bill. I acknowledge that there may be some unintended consequences but, like others, I do not think the sky will fall in if this is passed in its amended form. There is certainly a range of issues I think we should consider in some detail, and I would hope that all members of parliament—members of the House of Assembly as well as MLCs—will avail themselves of the hearings that take place, assuming this committee goes ahead, as it progresses with the taking of evidence. I commend the bill to the house.


The council divided on the second reading:

Ayes 13

Noes 6

Majority 7

Ayes

 Darley, J.A.

 Dawkins, J.S.L.

 Franks, T.A.

 Gazzola, J.M.

 Hunter, I.K.

 Kandelaars, G.A.

 Lensink, J.M.A. (teller)

 Maher, K.J.

 Parnell, M.C.

 McLachlan, A.L.

 Ridgway, D.W.

 Vincent, K.L.

 Wade, S.G.

 

 

 

NOES

 Brokenshire, R.L.

 Hood, D.G.E.

 Lee, J.S.

 Lucas, R.I.

 Ngo, T.T.

 Stephens, T.J. (teller)

 

PAIRS

 Gago, G.E.

 Finnigan, B.V.

 

Second reading thus carried.

The Hon. S.G. WADE moves that the bill be referred to select committee of the Legislative Council for inquiry and report.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK ( 22:25 :45 ): As the person who has moved the bill, I will be supporting the substantive motion of the Hon. Mr Wade. My understanding of select committees in relation to bills is that generally there is a membership of five. Today, we have had indications of additional interest, and the membership has been expanded to seven. I understand that for the normal standing orders for a committee of this nature three would have been adequate as a quorum. Clearly, it is fairly physically obvious that I will be otherwise engaged for a period of time in the near future and do not wish for the business of the committee to be delayed unduly.

The council divided on the amendment:

Ayes 6

Noes 13

Majority 7

AYES

 Brokenshire, R.L.
 

 Hood, D.G.E.

 Lee, J.S.

 Lucas, R.I. (teller)

 Ridgway, D.W.
 

 Stephens, T.J.

 

PAIRS

 Darley, J.A.

 Dawkins, J.S.L.

 Franks, T.A.

 Gazzola, J.M.

 Hunter, I.K.

 Hunter, I.K.

 Kandelaars, G.A.

 Lensink, J.M.A.

 Maher, K.J.

 McLachlan, A.L.

 Ngo, T.T.

 Parnell, M.C.

 Vincent, K.L.

 Wade, S.G. (teller)

 

 

PAIRS

 Gago, G.E.

 Finnigan, B.V.

 

Amendment thus negatived.

The PRESIDENT: We will now put the second amendment moving the quorum from three to four.

The council divided on the amendment:

Ayes 8

Noes 11

Majority 3

AYES

 Brokenshire, R.L.

 Darley, J.A.

 Hood, D.G.E.

 Lee, J.S.

 Lucas, R.I. (teller)

 Ngo, T.T.

 Ridgway, D.W.

 Stephens, T.J.

 

 

NOES

 Dawkins, J.S.L.

 Franks, T.A.

 Gazzola, J.M.

 Hunter, I.K.

 Lensink, J.M.A.

 Maher, K.J.

 McLachlan, A.L.

 Parnell, M.C.

 Vincent, K.L.

 Wade, S.G. (teller)

 

 

 

PAIRS

 Gago, G.E.

 Finnigan, B.V.

 

 Amendment thus negatived. 

The council divided on the motion:

Ayes 16

Noes 4

Majority 12

AYES

 Darley, J.A.

 Dawkins, J.S.L.

 Finnigan, B.V.

 Franks, T.A.

 Gazzola, J.M.

 Hunter, I.K.

 Kandelaars, G.A.

 Lensink, J.M.A.

 Lucas, R.I.

 Maher, K.J.

 McLachlan, A.L.

 McLachlan, A.L.

 Ngo, T.T.

 Parnell, M.C.

 Ridgway, D.W.

 Vincent, K.L.

 Wade, S.G. (teller)

 

 

 

NOES

Brokenshire, R.L.

Hood, D.G.E.

Lee, J.S.

Stephens, T.J. (teller)