Queensland brothels approved in secret through legal loophole

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.

Lyle Shelton


The Teachings of Internet Pornography

Caroline Norma in response to this article by Helen Razer

Lessons in internet pornography Helen Razer is lucky she doesn’t live in China. The Chinese government last week shut down 244 pornography sites in a rolling campaign that it declares will be ‘no flash in the pan’. The Chinese government has made a bold public commitment to follow though on a promise to monitor and suppress the distribution of pornography, not just through the internet, but also via ‘mobile phone games, online novels and radio programs’ (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/28752383/).

How would Razer fare as a Chinese woman living under a government that restricts the ability of its citizens to see pictures of men sexually penetrating women in a thousand different ways, using a thousand different implements? Razer is already worried that the Rudd government’s plan to suppress the distribution of child pornography will interfere with her pornography consumption. Imagine if Australia followed China’s lead and even suppressed pornography made out of women. Imagine the constraints that this would impose on Razer’s life!

Yes, let’s consider these constraints for a moment. Firstly, Razer writes that she is currently using pornography as a teaching tool to learn new techniques to incorporate into her sex life. She has certainly got her research skills in order in using internet pornography for this purpose. A thousand flowers bloom on the internet with regard to teachings on sexual technique. Admittedly, all of its lessons involve humiliating women in some way, but we’ll put that aside for the moment. Razer would be aware that the internet’s most recent teaching in sexual technique involves the anal penetration of a woman whose head is being flushed down a toilet. If the woman is a particularly good student, she licks the toilet seat before having her head flushed, and doesn’t pass out, even as she slowly drowns in the toilet bowl.

Under the Chinese government’s plan, Razer would be denied the learning opportunity of this very popular internet lesson, which is currently being taught for free to millions of internet users all around the world. As a self proclaimed pornography user, Razer knows that toilet pornography is a beginner level internet lesson that she would miss out on if her government were to suppress the distribution of pornography. Given that Razer is apparently more than just an average student of the internet, she would be undoubtedly also concerned about missing out on its more advanced level teachings in sexual technique. These generally involve women being tied up naked, or raped by animals.

What dire circumstances might result if Razer were to be denied these lessons by government decree? Firstly, she would be denied the opportunity to reenact the toilet scenario in her own sex life. In other words, Razer, or some other women recruited for the task, would not be anally penetrated while having their head flushed down the toilet. This is one outcome of the suppression of pornography. Secondly, Razer’s male partner, or some other man recruited for the task, would not be able to anally penetrate a woman while flushing her head down the toilet. This is a second outcome of the suppression of pornography. Thirdly, Razer’s partner would not be able to tell his mates at the pub about his experience of having anally penetrated a woman while flushing her head down the toilet. This is a third outcome of the suppression of pornography.

To fully appreciate the ramifications for Australian society of a decision to follow China’s lead, we would of course have to imagine these outcomes multiplied at least a thousand times. All the Australians like Razer who are currently using internet pornography as a learning tool in their sex lives would have their educations seriously curtailed, and this would have a big effect on society. It would certainly have implications for Australian schools, where boys are currently sharing pornography on their phones to try out on their female classmates. It might also have implications for Australian welfare agencies, who are currently having to look after victims of rapes perpetrated in the style of popular pornography scenarios. Australia’s advertising industry would also be affected, it is currently taking most of its creative cues from pornography.

Most crucially, in these tight economic times, Australian policy makers would have to think through the effects on the economy of any decision to suppress the distribution of pornography. The communications and technology companies that are currently making money through carrying pornography channels would see their profits nosedive, and hotel chains would no longer be able to skim commissions off the pay-per-view pornography that is downloaded in their establishments. Brothels would also suffer some loss of income with a drop off in the number of men who frequent their venues in order to reenact pornography scenarios. Australian internet businesses in general would be hurt through losing the advertising revenue that they are currently receiving from pornography distributors. The organisers of Sexpo could no longer hold such a big yearly event and generate such nice profits, and even pharmaceutical companies selling ‘erectile dysfunction’ products might lose business.

Pornography pervades every facet of Australian life. The government is aware of this fact, and took steps in 2007 to restrict its flow into a number of vulnerable communities because of the way it was being used to groom children for sexual abuse. Extending the ban to the rest of the Australian community would have a major impact not just on Razer, but on all women and children living in this society. A major source of sex education would be lost, and the values and language that pornography teaches, and the attitudes toward women and children that it promotes, would become things of the past. Any decision to follow the Chinese government’s pledge to suppress the distribution of internet pornography would certainly be a decision affecting the very basis of Australian society as we know it.

But, of course, no such decision is being considered. All that is being considered is a very limited and weak proposal to suppress the distribution of child pornography. That’s all. Razer should rest assured that she will still be able to happily access pornography on the internet every afternoon in preparation for her night’s activities. Her poor sisters living in China will enjoy no such privilege. With this in mind, Razer might consider taking time out of her internet surfing to join Getup and Amnesty in their current ‘human rights’ campaigns to make sure that all women of the world can have their heads flushed down toilets.

by Caroline Norma

Police baffled by prostitute murder mystery

WITHIN minutes of arriving at Sydney airport on September 6 last year, Chinese tourists Jenny and Susan had vanished.

The two friends had flown in from Auckland, cleared Customs with the rest of their tour group, grabbed their bags and just disappeared.

After two days sightseeing in Sydney, their tour group, led by China Merchants International Travel (Shenzhen), returned to China without them, their tour guide officially reporting them missing to the Department of Immigration on September 8.

It is now known the women, in their 30s, had stayed to work as freelance prostitutes in a number of brothels, adopting the Western names Jenny and Susan and applying for refugee status.

They had sub-let a tiny partitioned room in an already overcrowded apartment in the downmarket Auburn Central apartments in Sydney’s inner west.

But two months later, on November 13, inside apartment 4606, the decomposing bodies of the women were found in their bed.

The door to their tiny bedroom was locked and their throats had been cut.

Police said the attack was so vicious and inflicted such horrific injuries to the faces of the women that they could not use photographs to help them with identification.

Yet no one in the apartment, where another 11 people lived, or in the surrounding units saw or heard anything.

In a chilling twist, the day their bodies were discovered, a Sydney pimp who places foreign prostitutes in local brothels was heard boasting about the deaths and using them as leverage.

“Bad things happen to people who upset our people,” he boasted.

The horrific murders have baffled NSW police. Detective Sergeant Jim Stewart is appealing for anyone with any information to come forward.

Sergeant Stewart said there was no sign the women had been trafficked for sex slavery using the usual methods previously seen in Australia.

And they fit the profile of a recent study of Chinese sex workers that revealed most of the women were over 30, likely to be married or have children, had never worked as prostitutes in China, and made their own arrangements to travel to Australia to work.

However, elements of Jenny and Susan’s story have raised questions about who might have paid for their vacation and why, and who met them at Sydney airport.

Sex industry sources say professional traffickers have changed their modus operandi to avoid Australia’s anti-trafficking laws.

They pay the woman’s airfare and expenses, but she is free to do as she likes as long she repays the agreed amount.

If not, pressure is exerted on the woman’s family in her home country.

The issue of sex trafficking and sexual exploitation of women was highlighted by a series of exposes in The Weekend Australian in 2003.

The award-winning series resulted in the first charges being laid under the federal anti-trafficking laws that had been on the books since 1995.

The Weekend Australian has been told that Jenny was married and Susan was a widow with an eight-year-old daughter who she left behind with relatives.

They lived in the remote rural areas of Yunnan province in China and worked as manual labourers in a factory earning about 500 yuan ($100) a month.

They travelled to Shenzhen looking for work and soon after joined the 10-day tour out of Hong Kong headed for Australia and New Zealand, which would have cost the women the equivalent of four years’ wages.

They flew to Brisbane then visited Melbourne, travelled to Auckland and then back to Sydney, where they disappeared.

They found work in several illegal brothels in Sydney’s southwest, and colleagues described them as happy, but naive and unworldly. Police say the women had several boyfriends each and it was one of them who discovered their bodies when he went to check on them.

Last week, in an effort to jog the memory of their neighbours, police distributed leaflets with Jenny’s and Susan’s photographs around the apartment complex where they lived and died.

No one has come forward with any information.

Even the staff in a Chinese supermarket just steps away from their apartment, and the place where the women were most likely to have shopped for food, denied ever seeing the pair.


Brothel manager hired 14-year-old: court

A Melbourne brothel manager has admitted she let a 14-year-old girl work as a prostitute but believed she was over 18.

The girl worked at the Pickwood Lodge brothel in Brunswick between March 11 and May 20, 2007, the Melbourne Magistrates Court has been told.

Police prosecutor Senior Constable Brooke Sheers said the girl told brothel manager Janette Woods, 55, that she was 23 and gave a TAFE student card without a birth date as identification.

Woods told police she believed the girl was over 18 because she went to TAFE and said she had asked for more identification but the girl did not have any.

The 14-year-old was described in court as “living on the fringe” and having various personal difficulties.

Police discovered she was only 14 and working in a brothel when they went to an address where she and a friend had attempted suicide.

It was then they found receipts for services she had provided to Pickwood Lodge.

Woods, of Brookfield, pleaded guilty to 39 counts of allowing a child to take part in prostitution without taking reasonable steps to prove she was over 18. A further 78 charges were withdrawn by the crown.

Defence lawyer Tara Hartnett said Woods admitted she neglected to follow up the girl’s age and accepted “she never turned her mind to the matter again”.

“She accepts it was a matter she should’ve followed up. She didn’t,” Ms Hartnett said.

She said that while the offence was serious, Woods had no prior criminal history and asked that she receive a community-based order without conviction.

Ms Hartnett said Woods was a “battler” who married at 16 and raised two children as a single parent.

She had a stable work history and immediately resigned from her four-year employment at the brothel after the matter came to light.

Ms Hartnett said that in 1999 Woods was diagnosed with a brain tumour and had previously abused alcohol but had not relapsed.

She said her client had moved on with her life but it had been stressful.

Magistrate Kate Hawkins ordered Woods be assessed for a community-based order, agreeing it was within the range of an appropriate penalty.

The order is a supervised sentence in the community combining treatment and unpaid work.

Woods will be sentenced next week.


Daily Planet brothel accused of ‘secret door’

A RAID on the Daily Planet brothel revealed beds for up to 20 prostitutes were illegally set up in the building next door.

An adjoining wall was smashed through and a door installed to illegally link the two properties in Horne St, Elsternwick.

News of the discovery could affect Daily Planet building owner John Trimble’s plans to open a bar next door to the brothel.

It is illegal for brothels to serve alcohol.

Mr Trimble – the nephew of a Calabrian mafia boss – bought the building next to his Daily Planet property 10 years ago and recently applied for a liquor licence for it.

The Herald Sun reveals today that Glen Eira council officers inspected the brothel in 2005 and discovered the illegal doorway.

That linking door between the brothel and Mr Trimble’s planned bar at 13 Horne St was still there when the council last checked in December 2007.

Council inspectors also discovered beds for up to 20 sex workers were illegally provided on two of the three floors of 13 Horne St, with none of the mandatory safety requirements or planning approvals being met.

The council inspection followed a police raid on the brothel in which a prostitute was accused of stealing a $1.5 million watch from a client.

The diamond-studded Patek Phillippe watch was under a mattress in an illegal bed.

Elsternwick residents fear the proposed bar next to the Daily Planet is a bid to beat an alcohol ban in brothels.

Mr Trimble, 62, who changed his name from Trimbole, is the chief executive of Planet Platinum, which owns the $5 million Daily Planet site.

He is also the sole director of Cameron Lane Pty Ltd, which bought 13 Horne St as the site of the proposed bar for $485,000 in 1999.

Mr Trimble is the nephew of dead Italian organised crime czar Robert Trimbole, who was one of Australia’s biggest marijuana and heroin dealers during the 1970s and ’80s.

Trimbole is a major character in the new Underbelly TV series.

The executive director of Planet Platinum – the company Mr Trimble is using to apply for the Horne St liquor licence – is Dragan Micovski.

He manages Mr Trimble’s strip joint, Showgirls Bar 20, in violence-prone King St.

Mr Trimble’s company bought the King St building and strip club business for $7.4 million in 2003.

The Bar 20 business, and the building, are on the market for $10.5 million.

Mr Trimble’s company also bought the lease on the Royal Melbourne Hotel in Bourke St, Melbourne, for $1.5 million in 2004 and still owns 50 per cent of the popular pub.

As executive chairman, CEO and secretary of Planet Platinum, Mr Trimble is paid $450,000 a year.

His company’s 2008 annual report revealed Planet Platinum has invested $557,000 in a proposed joint venture for an eco-resort in Indonesia.

Banned brothel owner Graham Harvey has applied to turn 53 Nepean Highway, Elsternwick, which is less than a kilometre from Mr Trimble’s proposed 140-patron bar, into a licensed table-top dancing club with sexually explicit entertainment from 10pm-7am daily.

Elsternwick residents are campaigning to stop both venues, fearing if they are approved it will set a precedent to turn what is a family-dominated area into a King St-style sex and alcohol strip.


Human trafficker admits seven charges

A Gold Coast hairdresser who forced women to work as prostitutes so he could pay off loan sharks has abandoned an application to plead not guilty.

Keith William Dobie, 48, pleaded guilty in the Southport District Court in October to seven charges, including two of people trafficking, one of dealing with proceeds of a crime, and four of presenting false documents.

He then made an application for bail earlier this month in the Supreme Court in Brisbane on the grounds that he needed his freedom so he could obtain legal advice on how to change his plea to not guilty.

The application for a change of plea was filed but his lawyer on Thursday announced they would not be proceeding with it.

Dobie formally re-entered pleas of guilty to all charges in the Brisbane District Court before Judge Leanne Clare.

During previous appearances, the court has been told Dobie lured two Thai women in 2005 and 2006 to the Gold Coast with the promise of lucrative wages and luxury living conditions but instead paid them a pittance to entertain men.

Dobie used money paid by men for sexual services to help repay loan sharks who helped him fund repairs to his Currumbin salon after it was damaged by floods and a fire in 2005.

He was due to be sentenced on Thursday, however, his lawyer, who only recently took on the case, requested more time to take instructions from his client.

Dobie was remanded in custody and will be sentenced next week.


HK trial focuses on Australian sex trade

A woman accused of recruiting women to work as prostitutes in Australia has gone on trial in Hong Kong on Tuesday, amid claims she told the women she could bribe Australian consulate officials to speed up visas.

Yeung Sum-ching, 40, was accused of telling an undercover policewoman that she was able to pay bribes to staff in the Australian consulate in Hong Kong to allow the officer to work in the sex trade in Melbourne.

She was arrested in a police sting after advertisements were placed in Chinese newspapers in Hong Kong in December 2006 recruiting women “to make quick money in Australia.”

At the opening of Yeung’s trial, a court heard how she allegedly told the undercover officer that she could earn as much as 800 Hong Kong dollars ($A154) an hour working as a prostitute.

She claimed to arrange daily flights to Australia for women going to work as prostitutes and to recruit both Chinese women and women from other countries, Hong Kong’s District Court was told.

Yeung, arrested at an arranged meeting where the policewoman was due to hand over travel documents, denied a charge of attempting to profit from prostitution.

As part of the same police operation, a 34-year-old man was jailed for three years in November for trying to send two women undercover police officers to work as prostitutes overseas.

He was arrested after advertisements appeared in newspapers reading: “Make quick money overseas by being public relations officers in Japan, Taiwan and the United Kingdom.”

Most prostitutes in Hong Kong, a wealthy former British colony with a population of 6.9 million, come from poor provinces in neighbouring southern China.