Greens Party - Score 'Very Good'

Note: The page below has been archived and will no longer be updated. In the months leading up to Victoria’s state election on 26 November 2022, this page was updated and maintained to guide voters on the issue of sex workers’ rights.

On 26 November 2022, Victorians will vote in a state election. The Australian Greens – Victoria is registered as a political party to contest this election.

We give the Victorian Greens a ‘Very Good’ rating when it comes to sex workers’ rights. Why?

The Positives

The Victorian Greens have four sitting members across both houses of parliament. In this term of parliament (2018 – 2022):

  • the party has a policy of decriminalising sex work1
  • all Greens members voted YES to decriminalise sex work and spoke in favour of sex workers’ rights in parliament, emphasising the need to decriminalise street-based sex work2
  • the Greens Upper House member voted YES to successfully introduce new laws which classify the non-payment of sex work service fees as sexual assault or rape3

The Negatives

  • Greens Councillor Wes Gault voted against his own party’s principles by voting against sex work decriminalisation at a City of Boroondara council meeting in 20214
  • For over a decade (2004 – 2018), prior to this term of parliament (2018 – 2022), the party repeatedly pre-selected anti-sex work feminist Kathleen Maltzahn to contest council and state elections. Ms Maltzahn was a councillor in the City of Yarra between 2004 and 20085
Greens SWERF
Green's councillor Wes Gault voted against sex workers’ rights
The Greens previously repeatedly pre-selected anti-sex work candidate Kathleen Maltzahn.

Liberal Party councillor Cynthia Watson nominates Wes Gault for Deputy Mayor in 2021.6

Authorised by Sex Work Law Reform Victoria Inc., 79-81 Fitzroy Street, St Kilda, Victoria, 3182

1. See Justice Policy 21 of the Victorian Greens Principles

2. For the Greens Lower House voting record, see page 4451 of Hansard for the Legislative Assembly of the Victorian Parliament on 28 October 2021.

For the Greens Upper House voting record, see page 267 of Hansard for the Legislative Council of the Victorian Parliament on 10 February 2022.

3. On 30 August 2022, the sole Greens Upper House member, Dr Samantha Ratnam voted YES on the Justice Legislation Amendment (Sexual Offences and Other Matters) Bill 2022 (Vic). Clause 5 of the bill redefines sexual consent so that the non-payment of sexual service fees will be classified as rape or sexual assault. To see Dr Ratnam’s voting record on this bill, see page 3139 of Hansard for 30 August 2022 for the Legislative Council.

The voting record in the Lower House is not available as there was no division on the vote in the Lower House.

4. Kathleen Maltzahn, an anti-sex work feminist, was a councillor at the City of Yarra between 2004 and 2008. She unsuccessfully contested the Deputy Lord Mayor election in 2008 with the Melbourne City Council. The party pre-selected Ms Maltzahn to contest the 2010, 2014 and 2018 Victorian state elections. Ms Maltzahn lost all three elections. See Wikipedia for more details.

5. On 6 September 2021, Greens Councillor Wes Gault voted in favour of a council motion opposing the decriminalisation of sex work, aligning his vote with the Liberal Party councillors. See item 5.2 of the minutes of the City of Boroondara Urban Planning Delegated Committee Meeting on 6 September 2021

During discussion of the motion, Councillor Gault made no comment. Wes Gault has never publicly apologised for or sought to correct this vote. It has now been over 12 months since this vote and Councillor Gault has not put up a revised motion on this issue, nor has he used General Business time at council meetings to provide further context to explain his vote.

In an on the record email to SWLRV on 19 September 2022, Councillor Gault provided further context to his vote, ‘I was very clear that I had absolutely no objection to the decriminalisation of sex work but was concerned about yet another move by the State Government, to diminish Councils planning controls.’

The motion which passed did indeed refer to both planning changes and the decriminalisation of sex work. However, the vote on this motion occurred about a month before the sex work decriminalisation bill was made public and around nine months before the planning changes were published. This means no councillor at the time could have known the details of what the Victorian Government was planning to change.

When councillors are asked to vote on a motion, it is common for them to support one part of the motion, while opposing another. In order for a councillor’s vote to accurately reflect their intent, in this scenario, it is routine for the councillor to propose an amended motion which splits the original motion into its constituent parts. For example, Wes Gault could easily have proposed splitting the sex work motion into two parts, with the first opposing the decriminalisation of sex work and the second part opposing the separate council planning changes. That way, if he genuinely had no issue with the decriminalisation of sex work, he could have voted accordingly in support of sex work decriminalisation while voting against the separate sex work planning changes. During discussion of the sex work motion, at no point did Wes Gault make comments or propose an amended motion. Instead, he proceeded to quietly vote in favour of the unamended anti-sex work motion, which opposed both the decriminalisation of sex work and the separate sex work planning changes.

The planning controls Councillor Gault opposes are the sweeping pro-sex work planning changes confirmed by the Victorian Government on 26 June 2022. The changes, which will apply Victoria-wide, come into force after 1 December 2023 and will greatly benefit sex workers by:

  • permitting sex workers to lawfully work from home without a planning permit;
  • allowing brothels to lawfully exist outside industrial zones for the first time;
  • eliminating discrimination against sex workers and the sex industry at the local government planning scheme level.

    These pro-sex work planning changes introduce new regulations to the sex industry and continue to give councils some powers to regulate and control sex work. The planning scheme changes bring the regulation of sex work in line with the same regulatory burdens faced by hairdressers. Councillor Gault’s on the record clarification confirms he opposes these pro-sex work planning changes. These planning changes are available here.

6. On 22 November 2021, right wing Liberal Party Councillor Cynthia Watson nominated Greens Party Councillor Gault for the position of Deputy Mayor. This resulted in his annual council allowance almost doubling from $21,519 (see page 96 of the City of Boroondara Annual Report 2020/2021) to $41,749 (See page 184 of the City of Boroondara Annual Report 2021-22).

Councillor Gault elected to receive less than his full entitlement based on section 39(5) of the Local Government Act 2020 (Vic).

The next Mayoral election at the City of Boroondara will occur on 8 December 2022, after the  Victorian state election.

This webpage is provided as a guide to help inform voters about how political parties and candidates have performed when it comes to sex workers’ rights. 

Sex Work Law Reform Victoria is not affiliated with any political party, candidate, councillor or local government. Sex Work Law Reform Victoria Inc. does not endorse or campaign for any political party or candidate. We believe all political parties can potentially work towards enhancing sex workers’ rights and we encourage all political parties to take an ongoing interest in sex workers’ rights. We have never donated to a political party, candidate, councillor or local government. We have never received money from any political parties, candidates, councillors or local governments. We have never applied for or received grants from the Victorian Government or any local government. We are a registered not-for-profit organisation.

We are not a registered charity.

We understand sex workers have a wide range of views about politics and we respect diversity of views.

© Sex Work Law Reform Victoria 2022

Last updated: 16 December 2022