Today the Government released IPART’s Final Report on Reforming Licensing in NSW, which recommends reforms for licensing across many industries in NSW. The report does not recommend the introduction of a licensing scheme for the sex industry, noting that “any proposed licensing scheme for the sex services industry should be assessed using the Licensing Framework to determine whether it is an appropriate government response to address the policy objectives."
Page 215 of the report continues:
“… as part of Stage 1 assessment using the Licensing Framework, a comprehensive review of literature and independent evaluation of evidence is required to support the decision.
The arguments presented in submissions to our Issues Paper and Draft Report suggest that “alternatives to licensing may be more appropriate to address the NSW Government’s policy objectives in this area.”
The release of this report is particularly timely in light of the upcoming NSW Inquiry into the Regulation of Brothels, the terms of reference of which include “(d) Options for reform including a scheme of registration or licencing system for authorised brothels”.
Scarlet Alliance submitted to the IPART consultation process for the report, noting: “Evidence shows that decriminalisation is the world-renowned, best practice model for sex work regulation, and that it has brought high rates of compliance, minimal opportunities for corruption, increased transparency and improved safety for sex workers. The UNAIDS, UNFPA, & UNDP Report Sex Work and the Law in Asia and the Pacific 2012 recognises the value of decriminalisation and the failure of licensing models in effectively regulating the sex industry.”(1)
“The thirty year experience of our organisation in peer based outreach and education in NSW has shown us that decriminalisation is the optimum legal working framework for sex work and sex premises. We welcome the final report of the NSW IPART review flagging that “alternatives to licensing may be more appropriate to address the NSW government’s policy objectives” knowing that the only practical alternative is the current model of decriminalisation.” Cameron Cox, CEO, SWOP NSW
"Overall decriminalisation without the imposition of a licence has achieved better regulatory outcomes in terms of sex worker health and wellbeing, preventing large scale corruption and protecting neighbourhood amenity than has occurred in other jurisdictions that have adopted a licensing approach. We seek always to address the primary issues of how the rights and safety of sex workers, the public health and corruption prevention can be best served through evidence based policy development and implementation. Licensing will not support these important outcomes nor benefit the wider community in any way." Julie Bates Urban Realists, and Maria McMahon, Independent Sex Worker Advocate.
“Those of us who’ve been working in this field for a while know licensing has been rejected for the sex industry in NSW by numerous taskforces, inquiries, and, most recently, by the NSW Better Regulation Office in 2012. Time to bury this dead horse forever and refocus on how to create a level playing field with reasonable planning policies that the sex industry can actually comply with.” Saul Isbister, President of Touching Base Inc.
“Experiences in Queensland and Victoria demonstrate that licensing of sex work is ineffective, expensive and unworkable. Licensing of sex work has enormous administrative expense and low compliance. Licensing of sex industry businesses in Queensland has cost tax payers more than $7 million over a ten year period, and only resulted in 24 licensed brothels – leaving the majority of the industry illegal.”(2) Janelle Fawkes, CEO, Scarlet Alliance, Australian Sex Workers Association.
The definitive word on sex industry licensing comes from The Kirby Institute’s 2012 Report to the NSW Ministry of Health, which states that licensing is a ‘threat to public health’ and should not be regarded as a viable legislative model.(3) Basil Donovan MD, Professor and Head, Sexual Health Program, The Kirby Institute, UNSW; President, International Society for STD Research; Chair, World STI & HIV Congress, Brisbane.
(1) UNAIDS, UNFPA, UNDP, Sex Work and the Law in Asia and the Pacific, 2012, UNDP Thailand, accessed at http://www.snap-undp.org/elibrary/Publications/HIV-2012-SexWorkAndLaw.pdf on 23 October 2012, page 7.
(2) Prostitution Licensing Authority, Queensland, Annual Reports 2001-2011, Statements of Financial Performance. When calculated, the Government Contributions across each year in the first ten years of licensing have added to $6,959,000. In 2010-11, the PLA received $561,565 in licensing fees, but the total expenditure for that year was $1, 339, 663.
(3) Donovan, B., Harcourt, C., Egger, S., Watchirs Smith, L., Schneider, K., Kaldor, J.M., Chen, M.Y., Fairley, C.K.,Tabrizi, S., (2012), The Sex Industry in New South Wales: a Report to the NSW Ministry of Health. Sydney: Kirby Institute, University of New South Wales, p.7