Media Release: Local Government Welcomes Inquiry into Brothels

26 June 2015
 
The Local Government sector today applauded the NSW Government’s decision to conduct a Parliamentary Inquiry into the regulation of brothels in NSW. 
 
The move – announced last night by Minister for Innovation and better Regulation Victor Dominello – is expected to examine the current regulatory roles and responsibilities of both State and Local Governments. 
 
Local Government NSW President Keith Rhoades AFSM welcomed the announcement, which he said had the potential to overcome issues which had stymied many Councils’ efforts to prevent illegal brothel activity in their Local Government areas. 
 
“Until now the burden of proof of illegal activity has rested solely on Councils, and it has proven extraordinarily difficult to meet this requirement,” Cr Rhoades said. 
 
“Even the use of private investigation agents working undercover failed to meet this burden of proof, effectively preventing Councils from being able to stamp out illegal activity and protect their residents and ratepayers. 
 
“These investigations have been resource intensive and costly. 
 
“In 2014 the Willoughby Council confirmed to the Sydney Morning Herald that it had spent $60,000 over two years to hire private investigators to go undercover and gather the evidence needed for prosecution, while Hornsby Council advised private investigator fees, legal costs and council hours cost more than $40,000 for a single court matter. 
 
“Meanwhile, the existing planning controls open to Councils are limited in their efficacy and do not address broader attitudes such as safety, health or community attitudes.” 
 
Cr Rhoades said today’s announcement was only the first step to a real result. 
 
“In 2007, the former Labor Premier Morris Iemma said he would empower local courts to cut off electricity and close illegal brothels within five days, ensuring Councils did not need to hire private investigators,” he said. 
 
“The O’Farrell Opposition promised before the 2011 election that they would establish a licensing authority to oversee the sex industry, and the then-Local Government spokesman Chris Hartcher promised State-funded compliance officers. 
 
“In September 2014 NSW Special Minister of State Anthony Roberts said the NSW Government was examining further option” to ‘ensure the best possible outcome for the community and those working in the industry’. 
 
“So as you can see, it’s taken us a eight years to get to this point – and we are, after all, only looking at an Inquiry, which is not quite the level of action that has been promised in the past. 
 
“Nonetheless, LGNSW welcomes this announcement by the Baird Government, and looks forward to a full and frank inquiry which we hope will finally result in real action.” 
 
The Inquiry, which will be headed by Alister Henskens SC MP, is expected to hand down its report on 12 November. 
 
Media Enquiries 
 
Toni Allan 0412 774 441