Sex Work Laws

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (15:39 :05 ): I rise today to speak about the urgent and pressing need to decriminalise sex work in this state. On the very first day of this year a young woman, Ting Fang, lost her life when she was murdered in a Hindley Street hotel, just a few hundred metres from where we stand today. She was silenced in her death when she had her throat slit. She was silenced in her profession when she came to South Australia from New South Wales, because South Australia's sex work laws are the most archaic in the country.

I note that we have had many attempts at legislative reform, but I hope that this year we will finally see the decriminalisation of sex work in South Australia and once again take our place as one of the nation's most progressive legislatures, certainly in relation to this particular issue, and that the days of games where people post on Facebook and encourage others to throw bottles at sex workers standing on Hanson Road will be long gone and a part of our history.

I note that locally we have had many attempts at law reform that have passed neither this council nor the other place, but in New Zealand the prostitution reform bill passed in that parliament in 2003. In that parliament and in that legislature, we can see the benefits of a decriminalisation model. It was with that intent that I visited New Zealand in September 2012 and met with the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective and a range of other sex workers, street workers, health professionals and politicians to discuss the potential for South Australia to enact similar laws.

One of the workers that I met had entered postgraduate study and she was interested in the status of sex work around the world. She knew of South Australia, in fact, because of the Adelaide sex workers online blog 'because I'm a whore', which is at www.becauseimawhore.com. I make mention of that for any members of this place to hear a perspective from an Adelaide-based sex worker about the effects of the laws in our state upon her life and those of her colleagues.

I note also that New Zealand sex workers remarked to me that they knew that they had an Australian client, and particularly a South Australian client or a client from a state where the laws are not those of decriminalisation, because the clients would attempt to take condoms with them when they left, knowing that possession of condoms can be used as evidence of sex work and used to prosecute a sex worker.

I heard stories from those workers in New Zealand about their experience of the industry. Their experience of the industry was one where organised crime was not an active part of that industry, where workplace rights and respect for the lives of those workers was a key part of the industry, where a particular sex worker who was being blackmailed by a police officer in that country was not only able to report that blackmail to the authorities, but that police officer was then convicted and imprisoned for his crime, while she was protected and her human rights were respected.

It is that need for reform that I believe would honour the life of Ting Fang and the sad loss of her life and the silence that will be imposed upon her for ever more that this state needs to turn its attention to. We've had many attempts at law reform, as I say, some of which have occurred in my time in this place, but I know other more experienced and long-serving members have seen far more debates on this issue than I have. I look forward to South Australia again leading the way.

I would say that the key thing we must do as members of this place is respect the slogan that I have often heard, particularly from Scarlet Alliance and other sex work organisations: 'Nothing about us without us.' We must listen to the voices of sex workers themselves and not have them silenced in this debate. We must not assume that we know better, but we must listen to those who are the experts in their own lives.

Stay Connected

Sign Up to news and updates from Tammy.