Qld laws ban sex workers from hotels, motels

In Queensland

Transcript from ABC 2nd Nov 2012

Civil libertarians have slammed changes to Queensland laws that will allow motel and hotel owners to deny sex workers accommodation. The amendments to the Queensland Anti-Discrimination Act mean hoteliers can now refuse a sex worker a room or evict them if they think they’re operating a business on the property.

SHANE MCLEOD: Civil libertarians have slammed changes to laws in Queensland that would allow hotel and motel owners to deny accommodation to sex industry workers.

The amendments to the State’s Anti-Discrimination Act mean hoteliers can now refuse a room to a sex worker or evict them if they think they’re operating a business on the property.

The Queensland Government says the move protects the rights of business owners, but civil libertarians say it’s a dangerous step backwards.

Stephanie Smail reports.

STEPHANIE SMAIL: Earlier this year a fly-in, fly-out sex worker took the owner of a central Queensland motel to court.

The Drovers Rest Motel had banned her from the premises when they discovered she was bringing clients back to her room.

She appealed the decision and won on the grounds the motel owners had breached the State’s Anti-Discrimination Act.

But the Queensland Government has now amended that law.

Jarrod Bleijie is the State’s Attorney-General.

JARROD BLEIJIE: I just think Government have to act when we see business people being attacked and having to compensate people because they’re trying to run their business.

And they have the right to run their business how they want to run their business and if that means kicking out sex workers that are operating in these particular motels because they don’t want that type of business in their motel, then I think that should be their right to do so.

STEPHANIE SMAIL: He says it’s already illegal to run a business in a motel or hotel room under Queensland’s Liquor Act and the anti-discrimination laws have made it difficult to enforce.

JARROD BLEIJIE: This is where we have the discrepancy. The Liquor Act says one thing and the Anti-Discrimination Act says another.

So what we’re actually doing is changing the Anti-Discrimination Act so it falls in line with the Liquor Act, because the owner of the motel or operator of the motel has an obligation under that Liquor Act to make sure that business is not being conducted in a motel room or conducted on the side of a motel.

STEPHANIE SMAIL: Terry O’Gorman from the Queensland Council of Civil Liberties says the changes to the act were rushed through with little public consultation.

TERRY O’GORMAN: We’re seeing under this Government that’s got a huge majority, no Upper House to keep them under control, we’re seeing a reversion to the Bjelke-Petersen years of bring forward legislation, don’t consult with anyone except your favourites, and that has the effect that the legislation is extreme and often when legislation is the product of non-consultation, it turns out to have significant unintended consequences.

STEPHANIE SMAIL: He’s worried changes to the law will remove safeguards against broader discrimination.

TERRY O’GORMAN: The whole history of why anti-discrimination legislation has been brought in around the country, but particularly in Queensland, is because you had, particularly in country areas in the past, in the 70s and the 80s, hotel and motel owners refusing accommodation, particularly to Aboriginal people, because they thought they lowered the tone of the place.

That’s why you had anti-discrimination legislation brought in.

STEPHANIE SMAIL: Prostitution is legal in Queensland if sex workers are in a licensed brothel or working privately.

But Terry O’Gorman says moves to ban sex workers from hotels and motels could risk their health and safety.

Jarrod Bleijie argues if prostitutes are worried about where they can work, they should change their profession.

JARROD BLEIJIE: Well it’s not an industry that I would like to see thriving, of course. I think it devalues people by participating in this industry.

If a sex worker has particular concerns of where they’re going or where they want to work, then I would encourage them not to do it.

I’d encourage them to get out of the industry.

STEPHANIE SMAIL: The amendments to Queensland’s Anti-Discrimination Act are likely to be passed in State Parliament later this month.

SHANE MCLEOD: Stephanie Smail reporting.

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