QLD parliament passes historic legislation, repealing unsafe criminal laws and providing protections for sex workers

Sex worker organisations and Queensland Unions welcome the Criminal Code (Decriminalising Sex Work) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2024 second reading in the Legislative Assembly today. Sex workers and supporters took over the Queensland Parliament Gallery to witness this historic legislative reform.

“Sex worker safety strategies have been criminalised and used to charge sex workers for decades. We thank the Queensland Government for recognising decriminalisation as essential to worker safety. With sex work no longer a criminal offence we look forward to a well regulated industry where Workplace Health and Safety applies to every workplace and sex workers have access to industrial rights,” said Lulu Holiday, State Coordinator, Respect Inc, Queensland’s sex worker organisation.

“The Bill repeals the expensive, failed licensing system that only regulates sixteen brothels. The Miles Government should be congratulated for recognising a state-wide system that only regulates 10% of workplaces is not effective. Sex work is work and laws that criminalise sex work workplaces and our safety strategies diminish our ability to work safely or legally,” said Janelle Fawkes, DecrimQLD Campaign Leader.

“For too long, the safety of sex workers has taken a back seat to draconian laws that many governments were happy to see left in the shadows. Queensland Unions stands with all workers to make sure they are safe and respected. Today’s reforms also mean that sex workers will have the same work health and safety and industrial rights as every other worker in our state, and will help ensure their safety, dignity and respect,” said Jacqueline King, Queensland Unions General Secretary.

The Bill progresses recommendations from the independent review by the Queensland Law Reform Commission (QLRC) and the Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce Report Two.

The Bill repeals sex work and sex industry specific criminal laws but it is not ‘de-regulation.’ Repeal of criminal laws allows for general laws and regulations to apply to the sex industry. WHS is a good example. The WHS regulator currently has no role in relation to sex industry workplaces, sex workers want WHS guidelines that apply to every workplace. Decriminalisation is the path to fair and equal regulation.

“Decriminalisation will be a life changing policy shift for sex workers in Queensland and their families because it removes criminalisation. However, the rest of the Queensland community are unlikely to notice anything has changed. Reforms like this bring about changes in community attitudes that break down the stigma and discrimination that sex workers face every day, including when accessing essential services,” said Mish Pony, CEO, Scarlet Alliance, Australian Sex Workers Association.

“The legislation brings Queensland in line with domestic and international best practice. Decriminalisation is a cost effective, high compliance model for government and supports workplace health, safety and rights for sex workers,” said Jules Kim, NSWP, Global Network of Sex Work Projects.

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