A SEX industry insider warns there will be sex workers operating “everywhere” on the Mornington Peninsula as new legislation clears them to set up “shop” anywhere and strips councils of powers to stop it.
The state government has decriminalised sex work to bring the practice into line with other industries.
Australian Adult Entertainment Industry spokesman William Albon says the changes mean there could be brothels in Main Street, Mornington, and in every town on the peninsula, and Mornington Peninsula Shire Council will be powerless to do anything about it.
Under the legislative changes, sex workers can legally operate without a licence anywhere that a shop is currently permitted (“Alarm of easing of sex worker laws” The News 2/8/22).
The association, which acts for the owners of licensed brothels and licensed escort agencies, says the “planning bureaucrats” in Melbourne followed the narrative of Senator Fiona Patten and her report on decriminalising the sex industry in Victoria.
Albon said the only industry consultation on the legislation was on the implementation of the proposed changes.
“It is laudable to give liberties to sex workers but another thing altogether to strip the council of all planning control and let sex workers operate from private homes and apartments, and to site a brothel next door or over the road from the Grand Hotel in Main Street.”
Albon said there had always been a “proliferation” of illegal brothels on the peninsula, but the new legislation meant the “floodgates have been opened”.
“The council is to be commended for wanting to get some sense and order into this public policy mistake, but AAEI fear it could be too late, these changes to the planning laws were gazetted last month; it is hard to turn around when that has happened.”
The new laws repeal the existing terms (including brothel, sex work and sexual services) and replace them with sex services premises, and allow industry regulation to be managed through existing agencies, such as WorkSafe, the Department of Health and local governments
Shire councillors were briefed on the legislative changes on Tuesday 2 August, and are calling on the state government to provide more details on the legislation’s roll out and implementation.
In a letter to the state government, deputy mayor Lisa Dixon stated that the legislation has the positive impacts of recognising sex workers as a profession and improving the health and safety of sex workers.
However, council had “grave concern” that implementation of the legislation had not been thought through to ensure the amenity and social impact on people in residential areas “is properly regarded”.
Dixon’s letter states that there may be unnecessary concern from churches, schools, pre-schools and other centres and organisations about the legislation because there had been a lack of detail on its implementation.
“To date, local government organisations have been provided with minimal opportunities to contribute or be supported to implement the new Act successfully.”
Councillor concerns also focussed on the need to clarify the rules around car parking, hours of operation and the proximity of sex services to churches, schools and pre-schools.
The council has called for “ongoing, respectful communication of the importance of this reform”, including its impact and avenues for support.
The shire’s acting manager of development services, David McPherson, said the council was seeking clarification from the state government on the proposed Act, including any parameters or conditions in the planning scheme that may be attached to the sex service premises use.