CONCERNED Toowoomba residents are angry and bewildered that their elected council is powerless to stop a brothel development from going ahead.
It was left to the media to tell the community it was about to get Queensland’s 24th legal brothel after council officers assessed the application in secret.
Usually the public finds out about any contentious development applications through the council’s public notification whiteboards, newspaper advertisements or when the application is discussed in the council chamber.
Not so with brothels. In the Smart State, pimps have privileges other developers would kill for.
If a brothel application ticks the right town-planning boxes, and the council area has more than 25,000 residents, the application must be approved. No ifs, no buts and no community input. The community can’t lodge objections and the application is shepherded through the system by town planners without even coming to a council meeting.
It is not lawful for the council to consider the social cost of brothels or to protect young women from the government-backed sex trade’s illusionary promises of easy money, glamour and empowerment.
The law is weighted so heavily on the side of those profiting from young women’s flesh that defending a rejection in the Planning and Environment Court is doomed to burn ratepayers’ money in vain.
At the same time Queensland was legalising brothels, Sweden, after decades of legal brothels, was heading in the opposite direction. Pressured by feminists, the Swedish Government finally called prostitution what it really is: violence against women.
Instead of the failed strategy of targeting the female victims of prostitution, the law changed to focus on men, making it illegal for them to buy sex from women.
The Swedes then poured resources into exit programs. Today Sweden is no longer a haven for sex traffickers and street walking has been largely eradicated.
In a report on prostitution produced for Britain’s Blair government, called Paying The Price, it was noted that: “Experience in both Australia and Europe suggests that licensing schemes have failed to deliver the safe working environment that they set out to achieve.”
Unfortunately, then premier Peter Beattie set a bad example for other Australian state governments.
In one of its final acts before its defeat last year, the Carpenter Labor government in Western Australia introduced laws legalising brothels that were remarkably similar to the Queensland legislation.
They passed by one vote in the Upper House.
Liberal leader Colin Barnett narrowly won the election after pledging to repeal the laws and telling 1000 people at an Australian Christian Lobby election forum in Perth that he would investigate the successful Swedish policy.
The justified angst in Toowoomba should prompt the Bligh Government to at least consider reinstalling local democracy for brothel applications. A simple amendment to the Prostitution Act would achieve this and the lead-up to a state election is an ideal time for both major parties to pledge this. But following the Swedish feminists would be better still.
The gagged Toowoomba community at least deserves the right to debate better policy alternatives.
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- Against Pornography
- Anne Bissell
- Anti-Porn Activist Network
- Anti-Porn Feminists
- Breaking Free
- Captive Daughters
- Coalition Against Trafficking in Women: Australia
- Coalition for the Removal of Pimping
- Feminist Coalition Against Prostitution
- Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women
- Helen Bamber Foundation
- Human Trafficking Working Group
- Hustling the Left
- Lola Greene Baldwin Foundation
- Manufactured Contempt
- No Porn Northampton
- No Porn on London Transport
- No Porn Pledge
- One Angry Girl
- Operation Silver Braid
- Our Voices Matter
- POPPY Project
- Project Respect
- Prostitution Reform
- Prostitution Research and Education
- Rebecca Mott
- SAGE Project: Standing Against Global Exploitation
- Somaly Mam Foundation
- Stop Porn Culture
- STOP Western Australia
- This is Playboy
- Traffick Jamming Blog