THE publication of Bishop Morris’s balanced and incisive statement on prostitution and the prostitution legislation in Queensland was like a breath of fresh air to those of us who have accepted statutory responsibilities in the implementation of the legislation.
It should be compulsory reading for some in local government who for political reasons seem intent on claiming the high moral ground and who have attempted to hijack the legislation and frustrate its implementation. They need to be more objective and less judgmental and to inform themselves of the reasons which support this legislation.
Whatever one’s personal view might be on the morality of prostitution, the fact is that all state governments in this country have already or are presently engaged in framing legislation for the regulation and control of what has become known as the sex industry. Interestingly this is not a local phenomenon.
Recently the authority which I chair was visited by a delegation of high-ranking government officials from Holland intent on learning more about the Australian legislation experience. The Dutch Government is currently considering the introduction of similar legislation.
The desire of the Dutch parliament to regulate and control prostitution in that country is focused primarily on the social evils inherent in the trafficking in human beings, particularly women who are being imported into Europe from disadvantaged Third World countries.
Governments in this country also recognise that the regulation and control of prostitution is supportable for valid social and community based reasons:
- The need to better regulate, control and monitor the sexual health of the community.
- The need to protect sex workers, particularly women, from violence, even murder.
- The need to more effectively regulate the workplace and to insist on proper workplace health and safety procedures.
- The need to protect those, who in some cases are vulnerable and disadvantaged, from exploitation.
- To protect the community from official corruption the likes of which was exposed by the Fitzgerald Inquiry.
In the view of the government these objectives can best be achieved by means of a system which licenses brothels and which controls, in accordance with strict criteria, not only the persons who shall be licensed to operate a brothel, but also the conditions on which such a business will be conducted.
That task has been committed by the statute to the Prostitution Licensing Authority of which I am the chairperson.
This is neither the time nor the place to explore the implications in this context of the theological interface between morality and legality.
As a practising Catholic, I can only say that the nature and extent of my statutory obligations do not, in conscience, require that I resile from the performance of an onerous community responsibility.
The regulation and control of the sex industry and of those engaged in it is only one component of what Bishop Morris calls “a deceptively complex issue”. One might add that the notion that Toowoomba is “a unique community” and ought to be exempt from the operation of state laws is, in this context, a classic piece of self delusion.
It may be preferable for us not only to support the Church in its opposition to prostitution and other forms of immorality but also at the same time to recognise the difficult issues with which governments in their wisdom have had to deal for the common good. We might also, with advantage, recognise the humanity of those who are engaged in prostitution and to be less judgmental about them.
It is a great pity that no section of the media has yet commented publicly on the fact that this same legislation recognises the disadvantages of those engaged in prostitution. It does that by a statutory initiative which requires the Prostitution Advisory Council, inter alia, to develop programs which will enable sex workers to exit prostitution and to be reskilled for other employment.
Thank you for the significant contribution which The Catholic Leader has made to the public debate on this issue – one which has been significantly absent from other influential sections of the print media.
W.J. CARTER QC Wilston, Qld