MORNINGTON Peninsula Shire Council will write to state MPs expressing “grave concerns” that the state government’s decriminalisation of sex work has not been “thought through carefully”.
The Sex Work Decriminalisation Act 2022 adopted February decriminalised sex work and made consensual sex work legal in most locations across the state.
The Act is being implemented in two stages, with stage one starting in May and setting out some details about the decriminalising of street-based sex work. Stage two will come into force in December 2023 and will include changing planning controls to treat sex service businesses like other businesses.
The mayor Cr Anthony Marsh said council agreed with the intent of the move to decriminalise sex work and “the improved health and safety of workers and reduced stigma”.
“However, consideration needs to be given to the impact of the legislation on people in residential areas, as is done for other at-home businesses in residential areas. Council will be writing to the state government seeking clarification and guidance on the implementation of this important matter.”
At a 12 July council meeting, Cr David Gill moved a motion confirming that the council “agrees” with the intent of state legislation to decriminalise sex work but expresses concerns that the amenity of people in residential areas is “properly regarded”.
Gill said there was the possibility that the legislation would unnecessarily cause “fear” in the community if not properly implemented.
He said the lack of detail of the legislation and of “precautionary measures” could cause some organisations such as churches and schools to believe they will be adversely affected.
Councillors voted to advocate to lobby the government to make sure the implementation of the legislation ensures the “amenity and social impact on people in residential areas is properly regarded to at least the same level of consideration given about other businesses in residential areas”.
Gill said he wanted the legislation to work but cautioned that “it may not work the way it’s framed at the moment”.
“People have expectations of what will happen,” he said.
Gill said there had to be “more acceptance” in the community, and there should be built-in protections to allay “fear” in the community.
The new legislation recognise that sex work is “legitimate work” and is better regulated through standard business laws, like all other industries. It aims to maximise sex workers’ safety, health and human rights, while also reducing stigma and fear of criminal repercussions.
Cr Sarah Race said she supported the decriminalisation of sex work as it meant workers in the industry “are safe and can legitimately practice their craft”.
Councillors will be presented with a draft “advocacy letter” for the state ministers at a council briefing on 2 August, after which council will write to local state politicians and relevant ministers expressing its views on the implementation of the legislation and ask for replies.