Liberal Party - Score 'Poor'

On 26 November 2022, Victorians will vote in a state election. The Liberal Party of Australia – Victorian Division is registered as a political party to contest this election.

We give the Victorian Liberal Party a ‘Poor’ rating when it comes to sex workers’ rights. Why?

The Positives

In this term of parliament (2018 – 2022), the Victorian Liberal Party is the opposition party and:

  • most but not all Liberal Party members voted YES to successfully introduce new laws which classify the non-payment of sex work service fees as sexual assault or rape1
  • two Liberal party members (Bruce Atkinson and Bernie Finn) refrained from voting at all on the sex work decriminalisation bill2
  • one Liberal member who voted against sex work decriminalisation spoke in favour of anti-discrimination law protections for sex workers by emphasising the benefits from a gun rights’ perspective3

The Negatives

In this term of parliament (2018 – 2022), in relation to the opposition Victorian Liberal Party:

    • its members rarely spoke about sex work or sex workers’ rights in parliament
    • the party had no policy or platform which referred to sex work or sex workers’ rights4
    • all of its members present in the chamber voted against the Sex Work Decriminalisation Bill 2021 (Vic)5
    • of the party’s members who spoke about the Sex Work Decriminalisation Bill 2021 (Vic), most spoke in opposition to sex workers’ rights and the bill during debate6
    • one member (Roma Britnell) emphasised the public health threat posed by sex workers and was more concerned with landlords’ rights7
    • the party pre-selected two hard right anti-sex work candidates to contest the 2022 election (Moira Deeming and Cynthia Watson)8

The last time it held government, (2010 – 2014):

  • despite the law requiring a sex industry consultation committee to meet regularly, the party disbanded the committee9
Victorian Liberal Party Leader
Liberal Leader Matthew Guy voted against sex work decriminalisation
Church of Latter Day Saints
Cynthia Watson is the Liberal party’s anti-sex work candidate for the seat of Ringwood

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

1. On 30 August 2022, all of the Liberal members in Upper House voted YES to help pass 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 members voting record on this bill in the Upper House, see page 3139 of Hansard for 30 August 2022 in 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.

2. Bruce Atkinson and Bernie Finn were present in parliament on the day of the final vote for the Sex Work Decriminalisation Bill 2021 (Vic) but chose to step out of the parliamentary chamber for the final vote. This meant they chose to not vote at all. See page 267 of Hansard of the Legislative Council of the Victorian Parliament on 10 February 2022

The fact an MP may not have voted does not indicate a particular view on the legislation in question. The public record shows that Bruce Atkinson has been one of the most progressive Liberals in regard to a range of social policies over his approximately 30 years in Parliament.

At the time of this vote Bernie Finn was with the Liberal Party. Three months later he was expelled from the party for his anti-abortion comments. He is currently with the Democratic Labour Party.

3. See speech by Gordon Rich-Phillips, page 200 of Hansard for the Legislative Council of the Victorian Parliament on 10 February 2022

4. See Victorian Liberal Party webpage ‘Our Beliefs

5. For the Liberal Party’s voting record on sex work decriminalisation in the Lower House, see page 4451 of Hansard of the Legislative Assembly of the Victorian Parliament on 28 October 2021

For the Liberal Party’s voting record on sex work decriminalisation in the Upper House, see page 267 of Hansard of the Legislative Council of the Victorian Parliament on 10 February 2022

6. One example is Wendy Lovell’s speech, see page 228 of of Hansard of the Legislative Council of the Victorian Parliament on 10 February 2022

7. Roma Britnell’s speech, see pages 4286-4287 of Hansard of the Legislative Assembly of the Victorian Parliament on 27 October 2021

8. Since 2016 Cynthia Watson has been a councillor at the City of Boroondara. On 6 September 2021, Ms Watson voted in favour of a council motion opposing the decriminalisation of sex work. See item 5.2 of the minutes of the Urban Planning Delegated Committee Meeting on 6 September 2021. Ms Watson is contesting the Lower House seat of Ringwood at the November 2022 state election.

Since 2020, Moira Deeming has been a councillor at Melton City Council where she proposed and voted for two motions implying that sex workers pose a threat to children and non-sex work businesses. See item 12.6 of the minutes of the 22 November 2021 Melton City Council meeting and item 14.1 of the minutes of the 20 June 2022 Melton City Council meeting.

Ms Deeming is contesting the Upper House Western Metropolitan Region at the November 2022 state election.

9. s67 of the Sex Work Act 1994 (Vic) requires the Sex Work Ministerial Advisory Committee to advise the relevant Minister about the operation of and concerns about the sex industry. The Victorian Liberal Party disbanded the committee after its last meeting on 15 March 2014 and the committee did not meet for the remainder of the time the Liberal Party remained in power (March – November 2014).

Source: documents obtained via freedom of information (FOI). Details of the FOI request available on the Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner (OVIC) website. OVIC reviewed and published its decision following its review of the case:

‘AF9’ and Department of Justice and Community Safety (Freedom of Information) [2019] VICmr 54 (20 June 2019)

View a heavily redacted copy of the most recent meeting minutes of the Sex Work Mininsterial Advisory Committee obtained via FOI from the Department of Justice and Community Safety here.

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: 30 September 2022