Yesterday, 12 October 2021, the Minister for Consumer Affairs, Melissa Horne, tabled the Sex Work Decriminalisation Bill 2021 (Vic).
This is a moment to celebrate: the Victorian Government begins the process of delivering on our hopes that sex work will finally be decriminalised after more than 40 years of lobbying from various groups in Victoria. In fact, the tabling of this bill marks the furthest advance Victoria has made in progressing sex workers’ rights to date.
It’s a sad reality that, as we always feared, the bill seeks to retain some street solicitation offences. Sex work in public has always been very confronting to many people and we will continue to call for the clauses that criminalise solicitation to be removed.
But the bill delivers well when it comes to anti-discrimination protections, prohibiting councils from discriminating against sex workers and putting an end to the sex work licensing system.
This bill also comes at a time when………
-we are on the eve of an election year (2022), the coronavirus pandemic reaches new crescendos, with a new record of over 2,000 new daily infections in Victoria.
-Melbourne breaks the world record for the longest coronavirus lockdown – 255 days and counting.
-A public corruption investigation casts a shadow over the Victorian Government, with more resignations.
-Melbourne sees violent protests against coronavirus vaccine mandates.
-The news media remains fixated and preoccupied with the pandemic.
It’s possible the parliament will manage to quietly pass a number of bills while the media remains focussed on the pandemic. Let’s wait and see.
Victoria’s Minister for Local Government is sacked from Cabinet by the Victorian Premier after a number of serious allegations aired on a 60 Minutes television show.
Adem Somyurek was a significant figure in Labor’s factions; he led the right faction. Any large political party or organisation is bound to develop smaller factions or sub groups, and both major political parties are known for such divisions. Malcolm Turnbull’s recently published memoir very directly identified the hostility splitting his own party along ideological lines.
Adem Somyurek represented the Minister for Consumer Affairs in the Upper House and was therefore responsible for answering questions relating to sex industry licensing and registration. In 2019, when Labor tabled a bill to amend consumer laws (including sex work laws), Adem Somyurek read in the bill in the Upper House.
These serious allegations consuming the Victorian government are clearly not good for Victorian Labor, but what will be the consequences for Victorian sex workers? The answer most likely lies with the role that Marlene Kairouz plays in any pending investigations.
Fiona Patten’s Sex Work Review is designed to help construct a sex work decriminalisation bill that will work for Victoria in 2020 and beyond. Whoever replaces Adem Somyurek to become Marlene Kairouz’s new representative in the Upper House will play an important role in the passage of any Bill in the Upper House. Labor doesn’t have a majority in the Upper House and it is well recognised that any sex work decrim bill is likely to experience blockage in the Upper House, should there be resistance.