31 December 2022 – The Year In Review Through Twitter
Our Twitter social media account was active throughout 2022, covering all the key events. Our website and social media content aims to engage sex workers and the broader public in legal and political concepts relevant to sex work. From contract law, to paying tax, banking discrimination, council zoning laws, human trafficking debates to the state election, we covered it all. Here are some highlights of tweets that got some traction.
27 December 2022
David McCulloch writes a fascinating article about the history of sex work regulation and prohibition, tracing attitudes of discrimination to the year 2400 BCE. Read “The History of Laws Regulating Sex Work” in Sydney Criminal Lawyers.
21 December 2022
Financial crime fighting agency AUSTRAC closes submissions about de-banking. AUSTRAC regulates and monitors financial institutions to ensure compliance with money laundering laws. It can and has issued hefty fines of over $1 billion to banks. Our submission commenting on Draft Guidance: Providing financial services to customers that financial institutions assess to be higher risk, argues AUSTRAC should include clear references to anti-discrimination laws to remind financial institutions of these legal obligations in additional to money laundering laws. This is aimed to help reduce the frequency with which financial institutions de-bank, or exclude, sex workers from all financial services.
12 December 2022
The Age newspaper reports on the mechanisms by which some councils seek to evade scrutiny by residents, the media and ratepayers. This article is relevant to sex workers, as governance and accountability mechanisms are the only way sex workers can discover which councils are quietly engaging in anti-sex work conduct.
7 December 2022
The Australian Banking Association (ABA) formally responds to all 116 recommendations of the Banking Code Review. Every three years the Banking Code of Practice is reviewed. The Banking Code of Practice is one regulatory mechanism to address debanking, a process by which banks refuse to provide basic bank accounts to sex workers and other groups. Recommendations relevant to sex work and small business are 23 (ePayment Code), 35-40 and 42-44 (accessible banking for vulnerable customers), 58 (debanking), 64, 66, 67, 69 and 71 (small business banking).
23 November 2022
The Northern Territory passes new laws to protect sex workers, strippers and porn performers from discrimination. Section 10(3)(ec) inserts ‘sexual services’ as a protected attribute. Sex industry ancillary staff, third parties and adult product retail staff are excluded form protection as none of these types of workers engage in ‘sexual services’ as part of their work.
9 November 2022
Australia’s financial crime fighting agency, AUSTRAC publicly calls for submissions commenting on its Draft Guidance to assist financial service providers to stop de-banking sex workers and other customers. The Draft Guidance only uses the word ‘discrimination’ once.
21 October 2022
The Australian Banking Association (ABA) responds to the recommendations of the independent review into the Banking Code Compliance Committee (BCCC). As sex workers face very high levels of financial discrimination, banking regulation is one way to address such discrimination. In terms of the recommendations relevant to sex work, the ABA accepted all recommendations relevant to small business representation, but refused to agree that the regulator should be able to compel banks to publish on their websites details of their breaches of the relevant bank regulations.
18 October 2022
The Northern Territory Parliament tables a bill to amend its anti-discrimination laws. Clause 10(3) of the Anti-Discrimination Amendment Bill 2022 (NT) seeks to strengthen anti-discrimination laws for sex workers, strippers and porn performers by introducing a new protected attribute, ‘employment in sexual services or engaging in sexual services, including past employment in sexual services or engagement in sexual services’.
Sexual services is defined in clause 5.
17 October 2022
Feminist anti-trafficking charity Project Respect reverses its sex industry policy position, abandoning support for the Nordic Model of sex work laws which criminalises sex work clients. Project Respect was founded in the late 1990’s by a radical feminist and anti-sex work activist, Kathleen Maltzahn. From a sex workers’ rights perspective, this is a significant improvement.
7 October 2022
The increasing trend in card and electronic payments in retail spending continues according to Reserve Bank of Australia’s latest retail payments statistics. Card purchases are up almost 30% and New Payments Platform transactions increased by over 20% in the last twelve months. These trends increase the business need for sex workers and sex industry businesses to be able to accept card payments from clients via merchant providers. Most merchant providers in Australia continue to exclude all lawfully operating sex workers and sex industry businesses.
5 October 2022
Fair Work Commission decision favours brothel owner over sex worker. In Lucy Helft v Top Of The Town, the Fair Work Commission found that a sex worker working at Melbourne’s largest brothel, Top of the Town, had no been unfairly dismissed, as she was engaged with the brothel as a contractor, not an employee. This decision is consistent with previous similar decisions, which found that sex workers operating in brothels are not employees, but contractors.
3 October 2022
The Council of Financial Regulators publishes its policy advice to the Federal Government about how to address de-banking. Despite de-banking (financial discrimination) being a pervasive issue for the sex industry, the terms of reference for the advice excluded the sex industry. The advice includes:
- Banks to begin collecting and reporting the number of cases of de-banking
- Banks to provide excluded customers with a reason why they were excluded
- ‘The systematic de-banking of legitimate businesses across entire sectors can have significant impacts on affected businesses and increase their risk profile by forcing them to operate outside of the legal framework and conduct transactions exclusively in cash’
- Banks have corporate social responsibilities
- The Australian Government continues to place considerable trust in banks to act as gatekeepers of the financial system and to provide banking services that Australian businesses and consumers need to participate in the Australian economy.
- If banks fail to voluntarily change their practices, formal legislative reforms may required to force them
- Providing the Australian Financial Complaints Authority with powers to investigate de-banking would be desirable but legally complex
21 September 2022
The Victorian Law Reform Commission’s Final Report into Stalking identifies sex workers as a group at heightened risk of being the victim of stalking. Finding 2.61 refers to sex worker charity Red Files and the fact that they receive more reports of stalking against sex workers than rape.
6 September 2022
The Justice Legislation Amendment (Sexual Offences and Other Matters) Bill 2022 (Vic) receives royal assent, becoming law. Clause 5 redefines consent to that the non payment of sexual service fees will be classified as rape or sexual assault. Clause 5 find won’t come into force until 30 July 2023.
Timeline of Progression of Justice Legislation Amendment (Sexual Offences and Other Matters) Bill 2022 (Vic)
1 September 2022
The Queensland Human Rights Commission publishes its Final Report following its Review of Queensland’s Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 (QLD). The report recommends adding ‘sex work’ and ‘sex worker’ as protected attributes instead of the term ‘occupation’. Sex Work Law Reform Victoria’s submission called for ‘occupation’ to be included as a protected attribute.
31 August 2022
The Victorian Parliament passes affirmative consent laws with the passage of the Justice Legislation Amendment (Sexual Offences and Other Matters) Bill 2022. The bill redefines what consent is, classifying the non payment of sex work fees by a sex work client as a lack of consent. The sex work clauses of the bill will be enacted no later than 30 July 2023.
24 August 2022
Fiona Patten MP launches her political campaign to contest the November 2022 Victorian state election. A former sex worker and vocal supporter of sex workers’ rights, Fiona Patten reviewed Victoria’s sex work laws in 2020, leading to the decriminalisation of sex work in 2022.
22 August 2022
The Australian Banking Association tells ABC News it will respond to the 2021 Banking Code Review by the end of 2022. In 2021 Australia’s banking regulation, the Banking of Practice, was reviewed, with the reviewer making a number of recommendations to address the pervasive issue of banks discriminating against lawfully operating sex workers and sex industry businesses.
27 July 2022
WorkSafe Victoria advertises a full time occupational health and safety role to work closely with sex workers and the sex industry. This demonstrates the Victorian Government’s ongoing commitment to invest resources to help make sex work safe.
26 July 2022
2022 saw the spread of monkeypox to Australia, a virus spread by physical contact between people. The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) provides updated clinical guidance on vaccination against monkeypox, advising that sex workers are a key risk group who should receive monkeypox vaccines.
23 July 2022
The Victorian Liberal Party announces its preselection of anti-sex work councillor to contest the Upper House of the Victorian Parliament at the upcoming state election in November 2022. Moira Deeming has been a councillor with the City of Melton since 2020. She has repeatedly voted to pass motions condemning sex work, describing it as a threaten to children in the suburbs.
22 July 2022
The Trafficking in Persons Report is an annual report published by the State Department in the USA which rates governments on their responses to human trafficking (including human trafficking in the sex industry). In 2022 the Australian Government is again given Tier 1 status for meeting the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. In Australia human trafficking offences are enforced by the Australian Federal Police. See pages 71 and 95 for data specific to Australia.
24 June 2022
Following the pending decriminalisation of sex work, many Victorian councils have expressed concern, anxiety and fear at what the changes will mean for them. Reflecting these views, the Maribyrnong City Council puts forward a motion at the Municipal Association of Victoria seeking clarification as to council roles in compliance actions, as well as more funding to resource such compliance actions.
23 June 2022
Senior Victorian Government Minister, Martin Foley announces he will step down as Minister as early as June 2022. This is significant for sex workers, as Minister Foley has been a long term pro sex work ally of the movement to decriminalise sex work in Victoria.
23 June 2022
Community health sex worker program, RhED has been operating since 2000 in the Melbourne suburb of St Kilda. RhED’s parent organisation, Starhealth, will rename to “Better Health Network” following a voluntary amalgamation.
23 June 2022
The Council of Financial Regulators reveals it will provide policy reform advice to the Australian Government by August in relation to tackling de-banking. De-banking significantly affects the sex industry, whereby bank accounts of sex worker are suddently closed, for no reason.
23 June 2022
The Victorian Government officially publishes sweeping changes to all Victorian council planning schemes. The changes will, for the purposes of planning, treat sex workers like hairdressers. Home based sex work will be permitted, and brothels will be permitted in a greater number of zones. The changes are to apply after 1 December 2023.
20 June 2022
The City of Melton continues its anti-sex work rhetoric, passing another motion indicating that children will become at risk as a result of the decriminalisation of sex work. Anti-sex work councillor Moira Deeming tables the motion, which passes seven votes in favour, one abstention.
9 June 2022
LGBTIQ rights organisation, the Victorian Pride Lobby publishes a report identifying discrimination against sex worker in the insurance sector.
4 June 2022
One Australian bank is now closing the accounts of non-sex workers – for no reason.
3 June 2022
Local Government Professionals hosts its annual conference where all aspects of local government are discussed. Local government will become increasingly important for sex workers after sex work is decriminalised in Victoria. Councils will have a greater role approving brothel planning permits, playing a role in overseeing liquor licenses in brothels and regulating home based sex work businesses. Sex Work Law Reform Victoria had a stall at the conference, engaging with local government employees on the issue of sex workers’ rights.
31 May 2022
Australia’s newly installed conservative opposition leader, Peter Dutton, indicates he’ll prioritise the needs of small businesses in Australia. It remains to be seen whether this will include sex industry small businesses. Article by small business publication Smart Company.
31 May 2022
Australia’s number one small business publication covers the issue of high profile escort Samantha X being banned by her bank, ING Bank. The article, by Tony Jaques, also covers the ACT Supreme Court battle between a bitcoin trader and Westpac Bank over allegations of unlawful discrimination.
30 May 2022
Crikey.com.au covers the issue of high profile escort Samantha X being banned by her bank, ING Bank. The article, by Tony Jaques, also covers the ACT Supreme Court battle between a bitcoin trader and Westpac Bank over allegations of unlawful discrimination.
29 May 2022
ABC Radio National program, Background briefing covers sex workers’ rights in Queensland. Listen to the podcast via Apple Podcasts.
15 May 2022
The The Law Reform Commission of Western Australia publishes its Final Report following its Review of Queensland’s Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 (QLD). The report recommends adding ‘sex work’ and ‘sex worker’ as protected attributes instead of the term ‘occupation’. Sex Work Law Reform Victoria’s submission called for ‘occupation’ to be included as a protected attribute.
13 May 2022
The Banking Code Compliance Committee (BCCC) plays a role helping to end banking discrimination against sex workers and other small businesses.
The Banking Code Compliance Committee formally responds to the 19 recommendations from the 2021 independent review of the Committee. Phil Khoury was the reviewer, and made recommendations for the Banking Code Compliance Committee to better serve the needs of the small business community by having greater small business representation on its Small Business and Agribusiness Panel. More detailed responses will be published later in 2022.
13 May 2022
The Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society from La Trobe University publishes its academic paper, ‘Understanding the health and social wellbeing needs of sex workers in Victoria’. Obtaining qualitative data, and funded by Victorian Department of Health, the researchers interviewed 31 diverse sex workers and 17 key stakeholders, including people from Sex Work Law Reform Victoria.
10 May 2022
The first commencement date of the Sex Work Decriminalisation Act 2022 (Vic) passes. On 1 March 2022, the Victorian Parliament voted to decriminalise sex work progressively throughout 2022 and 2023. On this day, 10 May 2022 the following changes in the law will apply in Victoria:
- street based sex work will be decriminalised in most locations and at most times of the day.
- anti-discrimination laws will be strengthened with discrimination based on ‘occupation’ being unlawful for the first time.
- sex industry specific advertising controls will be repealed. All general state and federal advertising laws will continue to apply to sex work, as they apply to every other industry.
- self-employed sex workers will no longer be required to register with the Victorian Government in order to work. All sex workers, like all sole traders, will continue to be required to register for an Australian Business Number for the purposes of paying tax.
10 May 2022
SBS Persian publishes disturbing accounts of entire families of Persian migrants in Australia being denied financial services. This is a reminder that financial discrimination doesn’t just apply to sex workers.
6 May 2022
The ACT Supreme Court conducts a Directions Hearing between bitcoin trader Allan Flynn and Westpac Bank. The bank had previously closed all of Mr Flynn’s accounts used to conduct bitcoin trading. Mr Flynn applied to a tribunal, alleging unlawful discrimination on the basis of his occupation as a bitcoin trader. The case was then escalated to the Supreme Court. The case will be significant for sex workers, as the ‘occupation’ ground for discrimination, is the same area of law sex workers can use to defend themselves in similar discrimination complaints. The bitcoin legal case is expected to last for up to four months at the Supreme Court. Case Number: SC/0108/22 Case Name: Westpac Banking Corporation v Flynn & Anor.
3 May 2022
In revealing its 2022 budget, the Victorian Government reveals $11.3 million spending to supporting the successful implementation of the recently announced changes to sex work laws. Throughout 2022 and 2023, Victoria will decriminalise sex work. The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission will receive over $1 million to help address anti-discrimination complaints. WorkSafe Victoria will receive $5.3 million. St Kilda Legal Service will also receive funding to assist sex workes with their legal isues.
This is a welcome move from the Victorian Government. In order to improve sex workers’ welfare and right changes to the law and support for implementing and enforcing laws is needed.
29 April 2022
The Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner (OVIC) publishes a decision that Fiona Patten’s ‘Final Report: Review to make recommendations for the decriminalisation of sex work in Victoria’ should not be released via freedom of information laws. An applicant had unsuccessfully applied to the Department of Justice and Community and Safety to release the report. The applicant had sought review at OVIC, which upheld the agency’s decision to not release the report on the grounds that the report was prepared to brief a Minister in relation to an issue to be considered by the Cabinet (section 28(1)(ba) of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Vic)).
29 April 2022
The County Court of Victoria sentences Mr Leon Pompei to seven years imprisonment for the rape and strangulation of a sex worker in a Melbourne brothel. The victim worked at the Presidential Suite brothel in the Melbourne suburb of Seaford. Judge Lyon noted the fact Mr Pompei continued to show no remorse. County Court Case ID: CR-20-00256.
12 April 2022
The Queensland Law Reform Commission opens submissions to it review of Queensland’s sex work laws. The Commission’s Discussion Paper says, ‘The [Queensland] Government has decided to decriminalise the sex work industry…..and the Commission’s task is to consider what the legal framework for a decriminalised sex work industry should look like.’
This is a wonderful development for Queensland sex workers and suggests momentum is building across Australia for all states and territories to decriminalise sex work.
25 March 2022
The Belgian Federal Parliament votes to decriminalise sex work, making the country of 11 million people the first country in Europe to do so.
17 March 2022
The Australian Capital Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT) publishes an order in relation to the anti-discrimation case brought by a bitcoin trader. Canberra bitcoin trader Allan Flynn applied to ACAT, arguing Westpac Bank unlawfully discriminated against him after it closed all of his accounts. Mr Flynn argued the discrimination occurred on the basis of his ‘occupation’ as a bitcoin trader. Sex workers rely on a very similar law when fighting anti-discrimination cases.
ACAT found that as the bank relies on a Commonwealth law in its defense, the Supreme Court has jurisdiction rather than a tribunal. The tribunal therefore made no finding as to whether discrimination had occurred or not.
17 March 2022
Swan Hill Rural City Council comes out opposing the Victorian Government’s sex work decriminalisation reforms, concerned for the welfare of children, planning scheme changes and the additional resources needed to implement such changes.
4 March 2022
The Banking Code Compliance Committee publishes its latest quarterly report on breaches of the Banking Code of Practice. Table 2 in the report identifies a 9% increase in bank’s breaching the ‘inclusivity and accessibility’ Part of the Code. This Part is most applicable to sex workers, as the exclusion of sex workers from basic business banking services constitutes a lack of ‘inclusive and accessible’ banking.
1 March 2022
The Sex Work Decriminalisation Act 2022 (Vic) receives royal assent and becomes law. The Governor of Victoria’s final tick of approval is confirmed in the Victorian Government Gazette. However, the law won’t actually apply until two key enactment dates, which are 10 May 2022 and 1 December 2023.
25 February 2022
3CR community radio LGBTIQ show ‘In Ya Face’ covers local councils, sex work and LGBTIQ rights in an interview with Dr Sean Mulcahy, on the Victorian Pride Lobby’s ‘Rainbow Local Government Campaign’. Dr Mulcahy singles out the City of Boroondara and the City of Melton as the poorest performers for sex workers’ rights. Go to the 16 minute, 5 second mark.
25 February 2022
Local government news service, Victorian Local Governance Association Connect interviews lawyer Tony Raunic from Hunt & Hunt Lawyers, about what the what the passage of the Sex Work Decriminalisation Bill 2021 and the accompanying changes to planning schemes means for local councils and the sex industry. Mr Raunic emphasises the bills intent to prohibit councils from discriminating against sex workers, that regulation will still apply to sex workers and that there will be political pressure on some councils to ban all forms of sex work. He also addresses the question: will council officers inspect the houses of sex workers and require proof of sexual health medical checks? The Youtube video below will automatically start playing at the correct mark, the 5 minute and 30 second mark.
Hunt & Hunt Lawyers have a guide to the sex work bill on their website.
24 February 2022
The NSW Greens Party proposes an amendment to their NSW sex worker anti-discrimination bill, the Anti-Discrimination Amendment (Sex Workers) Bill 2020 (NSW)
The bill, tabled in 2020, has failed to progress in the parliament since late 2020. The amendment seeks to expand the legal definition of ‘sex worker’ in the bill to include both sex workers or relatives or associates of sex workers.
24 February 2022
Australia’s only sex work radio show interview Marayann Phoenix about her experience doing sex work around the world and her years of activism in Victoria fighting for sex workers’ rights. She was one of the founding members of the the Prostitutes’ Collective of Victoria.
23 February 2022
The Age columnist Julie Szego, opines about how the Victorian Labor Party has embraced liberalism and sensible small business regulation of the sex industry with the passage of the Sex Work Decriminalisation Bill 2021.
23 February 2022
The Victorian Department of Justice and Community Safety announces further regulation reforms to advertising and council planning laws will be unveiled on 10 May 2022 and 1 December 2022. The reforms follow an additional consultation with the sex industry and local councils in August 2021. This consultation received 698 complete online surveys and 159 written submissions and online video consultations with over 101 stakeholder groups. The majority of contributions supported decriminalising sex work in Victoria.
The resulting additional regulatory reforms will repeal sex industry specific regulations. Any regulation which singles out or discriminates against the sex industry will also be repealed or reformed. This is overwhelming good news for Victorian sex workers.
22 February 2022
The Legislative Assembly of the Victorian Parliament rubber stamps the Sex Work Decriminalisation Bill 2021, providing it with the final approval it needs before receiving royal assent. See page 4 of hansard.
21 February 2022
Occupational health and safety consultant, Kevin Jones blogs about what the passage of the Sex Work Decriminalisation 2021 bill means for WorkSafe Victoria.
(behind a paywall)
15 February 2022
A South Australian parliamentary committee fails to reach consensus on whether to endorse the latest sex work decriminalisation bill in that state. The Select Committee on the Statutes Amendment (Repeal of Sex Work Offences) Bill 2020 (SA) published its final report, noting the committee was divided on the bill, and the majority of submissions opposed to the bill (opposing sex work decriminalisation). Disappointingly, this marks another set back for sex workers’ rights in South Australia.
15 February 2022
Sex worker friendly social media platform, Switter, shuts down. The passage, in 2021, of the Online Safety Act was always expected to increase pressure to exclude sex workers and sex worker friendly platforms from the internet and social media. The closure of Switter is perhaps the first example of such a closure. The Online Safety Act 2021 was a federal Act, being debated and passed in the federal parliament. It had nothing to do with the Victorian Parliament, which supported sex workers by passing passing a law to decriminalise sex work in early 2022.
10 February 2022
Sex workers avoided HIV epidemic, with negligible rates of infection. HIV can now be eradicated from Australia.
10 February 2022
4 February 2022
Australia’s peak financial crime fighting body, AUSTRAC, publishes a guide to fighting sex slavery. The guide encourages banks to monitor the accounts of people to search for signs of suspicious transactions which could indicate sex slavery. Examples of transactions include purchases for lingerie or beauty products. The guide provides a caveat, ‘Similar payment may be made to legitimate brothels and legal sex workers. It’s important to consider a range of financial indicators which may indicate forced sexual servitude is taking place rather than legal sex work.’ AUSTRAC failed to consult with any sex worker or sex industry group in developing this guide.
14 January 2022
Since the year 2000, the Victorian Government funds a new sex worker program. Six months worth of funding will flow from the Victorian Department of Health to Scarlet Alliance to provide support to Victorian sex workers.
© Sex Work Law Reform Victoria 2022