Will Victoria’s sex work decriminalisation pass into law if key MP’s are prevented from voting for the bill?
Yesterday, 14 October 2021, the Legislative Council passed a motion requiring MP’s to be vaccinated and provide proof of vaccination in order to physically attend parliament. Those who don’t comply will be suspended, which means they cannot vote on bills.
The Victorian Government needs crossbench support in the Upper House to pass legislation. Right now, the MP’s most likely to be suspended as a result of the vaccine mandate are all crossbenchers – David Limbrick, Tim Quilty and Catherine Cumming.
Any suspension of MP’s will change the voting pattern and shift the government’s majority position when voting on bills. This vaccine mandate could impact the Sex Work Decriminalisation Bill 2021 gaining enough votes to pass into law.
The pandemic, and our response to it, continues to dance around the progress of this bill.
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.
Yesterday, 7 September 2021, the Victorian Liberal Party removed Michael O’Brien as leader, reinstalling Matthew Guy.
The Victorian Liberal Party is currently in opposition and represents the conservative party in Victoria. They experienced a significant defeat at the last 2018 election.
Matthew Guy acknowledged how hard it is to get air time for any opposition leader during a pandemic.
ABC News’ Victorian state political reporter Richard Willingham gives us a hint as to what they leadership change might mean for sex workers. In his article, Willingham argues that ‘Matthew Guy is selling hope. His party needs it as much as Victoria does.’ Victoria has endured half a dozen coronavirus lockdowns, businesses have been ruined and people fear for the health of their loved ones and the virus continues to circulate in the community. The pandemic has indeed shown we all need hope. But it’s also shown us that fear also works in mobilising people. Look at the rise of the anti-vaccine movement, and bizarre Q-Anon conspiracy theories.
Time and time again Victoria has seen individuals, groups and churches try to turn sex work into a wedge issue, fueling moral panic via fear based campaigns. We can only hope that the Victorian Liberal Party, keen to regain relevance, won’t try to politicise sex work via an irrational moral panic campaign about ‘sex work in the suburbs’.