Decriminalising sex work ‘welcome reform’

Queensland Law Society (QLS) supports the decriminalisation of sex work in the state and says the Criminal Code (Decriminalising Sex Work) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2024 is “a welcome reform”.

QLS President Rebecca Fogerty and Dominic Brunello, Chair of the QLS Criminal Law Committee, appeared at today’s public hearing for the Housing, Big Build and Manufacturing Committee inquiry into the Criminal Code (Decriminalising Sex Work) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2024.

Rebecca said decriminalisation was important for several reasons, including the removal of criminal laws with respect to sex work.

“Overall, this bill details specific amendments to various legislation that will mostly achieve the objective of decriminalising sex work in Queensland and ensuring sex work businesses are treated equally and fairly,” she said.

“We note there is some disquiet in the local government sector concerning this bill and the interaction with local government and its regulatory roles and responsibilities.

“Some initial reservations have been expressed by committee members about the proposed provision that expressly limits councils from making local laws that prohibit or regulate sex work.


“We understand from the department’s briefing on Friday that there is more work yet to be done on the regulations to support the changes and we wholeheartedly support the department’s statement that it will be engaged with stakeholders in this work to ensure there will not be any unintended consequences as a result. We also consider that the regulation should take effect at the same time as the bill package.”

The committee questioned the QLS representatives about concerns raised on the definition of “commercial sexual services” in the new section.

Dominic responded saying the reservations were around the language, in particular “gratification” and “sexual arousal”, and he queried whether a “more neutral term” could be considered, such as the definition used by the Northern Territory.

The Northern Territory defines “sex work” as “the provision by a person of services that involve the person participating in sexual activity with another person in return for payment or reward”.

“It is less laden with the adjectives which will be an interpretation challenge and more objective,” he said. “This definition becomes an element of offences and when that happens, courts and juries are required to determine whether evidence is sufficient to prove the element beyond a reasonable doubt.

“And when adjectives like gratification, or other terms of unsure remit and definition are used, there can be problems in fact finding.”


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