16 October 2020: Review now in Minister’s Hands

Melissa Horne, sex work decriminalisation

Melissa Horne takes over from Fiona Patten in a new phase of the Sex Work Review.

Fiona Patten has spent close to a year conducting a Review into the best way to decriminalise sex work in Victoria. Fiona was tasked with conducting the Review on behalf of the Minister, and she consulted with dozens of sex industry and other stakeholder groups in the process.  This week Fiona handed her much anticipated recommendations to Melissa Horne, the newly appointed Minister for Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation.

Fiona Patten has been lobbying for the sex industry for decades – she is the founder of Eros, and the Australian Sex Party, which became the Reason party. She knows the industry inside out, having spent countless hours publicly defending brothels, porn and sex work more broadly. She worked in the industry herself and is clearly comfortable and fluent when discussing sex and sex work publicly. 

Most politicians are nothing like this. They shy away from discussing sex, or sex work. Sex work is not a subject that comes naturally to them. They avoid it, like most people. And when they’re forced to confront it, the most common reaction is discomfort, silence, awkwardness. Melissa Horne will face a sex industry desparate for reform, impatient and tired of decades of suffering under our wretched sex work licensing system that threatens the majority of sex workers with prosecution

Melissa Horne is in many ways very different from Fiona Patten. Familiar with ministerial portfolios, she is new to the role of Minister for Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation. Navigating a way to implement law reform during a global pandemic, while her party is under fire over the response to coronavirus, and with the competing narratives surrounding sex work, was never going to be easy. In fact, sex work decriminalisation is notoriously difficult. Which is why only three jurisdictions in the world have decriminalised sex work. It seems logical that some kind of bill will be tabled in 2021, but the government hasn’t yet confirmed anything. 

We don’t yet know if the list of groups who made submissions will be made public. We also don’t know whether the Minister will choose to publish Fiona Patten’s final report.

What we do know is that now the ball is now firmly in the court of Melissa Horne. She’ll decide what happens next. 

Listen to Fiona Patten interviewed alongside Lisa from Sex Work Law Reform Victoria representative on 16 October 2020. Interview aired on Australia’s sex work radio show, Behind Closed Doors.

Listen on Apple Podcasts: Fiona Patten: Victoria’s Sex Work Review update

Stream on website: Fiona Patten: Victoria’s Sex Work Review update



1 July, 2020: Welcoming the new Minister for Consumer Affairs

Whenever there’s a problem with sex industry regulation, the most common instinctive response is for someone in authority to point the finger at someone else and say “That department is responsible”. There’s a fierce bout of finger pointing in multiple directions. And the finger is often pointed at suburban police stations, SICU, St Kilda Police Station, DHHS, Consumer Affairs Victoria, local councils, WorkSafe…

But the role of the Minister for Consumer Affairs is clear. The Sex Work Act states the Minister for Consumer Affairs is the relevant minister for regulating sex work.

Last week the Victorian Premier, Daniel Andrews, appointed Melissa Horne as the next Minister for Consumer Affairs. Minister Horne is relatively new to parliament, having been elected in 2018. However, she’s not entirely new to politics, being a long term member of the Labor Party and having grown up with a dad in the Federal Parliament. 

A Member’s inaugural speech often reveals something about their core values and motivations. Minister Horne’s inaugural speech focuses on core values of fairness, and an acknowledgement of the many people who have inspired and shaped her: other activists, MP’s, her family, and the Labor Party itself. Key themes running through her political life include education and public transport: traditional Labor issues.

Her electorate of Williamstown, the location of Melbourne’s first sea port, is in a beautiful part of Melbourne, boasting historic buildings, old industrial areas and unassuming suburbs Australia is known for. Five of Victoria’s 89 licensed brothels are found in Minister Horne’s electorate. Williamstown is known for its public housing blocks, ghost tours, and a ‘colourful’ history. In the gold rush days Williamstown was notorious for  its number of pubs, sailors, and ‘ladies of the night’. Lantern Ghost Tours still delight curious sightseers with wild stories of crime and debauchery. 

Sex work is by its very nature a contested occupation, with opposing narratives about how it ought to be regulated or, as some would prefer,  abolished altogether. The new Minister will be tasked with finding a legislative solution amongst the various views and divisions.

We welcome Minister Horne to her new portfolio and look forward to working with her to further the workplace safety and human rights of sex workers.