Ku-ring-gai Electorate Illegal Brothels

About this Item
SubjectsProstitution; Police: New South Wales; Local Government; Planning and Development
SpeakersO'Farrell Mr Barry
BusinessPrivate Members Statements

Page: 14475

    Mr BARRY O'FARRELL (Ku-ring-gai—Deputy Leader of the Opposition) [12.30 p.m.]: The problem of illegal brothels continues to preoccupy the concerns of many residents of Ku-ring-gai. I have identified six illegal brothels that are currently operating in the electorate—at Roseville, Lindfield, Gordon, Pymble, Turramurra and Warrawee—and the communities of those suburbs are understandably concerned about such illegal operations. In 1996 the Carr Government decriminalised prostitution, and as a result police cannot act to help communities affected by the operation of illegal brothels. At that time the Government promised that councils would have greater power to determine where brothels were located. That promise has never been delivered. Indeed, the only way in which councils can act to close down illegal brothels is through the Land and Environment Court, a process that is both costly and lengthy. In addition, on many occasions in that court, at the eleventh hour when council is about to finally get a decision against a brothel operator, the brothel operator simply pulls up stumps and moves to another house, and the process starts again.

    Residents are concerned about the impact of illegal brothels not only on their area and their families but on other elements in their community. An illegal brothel currently operating—thankfully, an operation in respect of which the Land and Environment Court found in favour of the council last Monday—is across the road from a public school. That is completely and utterly unacceptable. But it is because of the frustration at the lack of police power to act, and the process involved in council having to convince the Land and Environment Court to find that it is an illegal operation and therefore worthy of closure, that residents are now becoming concerned. It is no wonder that some residents are talking about boycotting local estate agents who are renting premises to brothel operators, or are talking about visiting the owners of the properties, who live locally, to raise their concerns.

    Residents should not have to resort to such tactics, but I appreciate the frustration that is leading a number of residents to believe it is necessary. I believe that reforms are available to tighten up the situation. I clearly indicate once again that I am not opposed to brothels per se. Personally, I would prefer to see them located in industrial sites. However, I would be happy with a system that allows local communities, through councils, to decide where brothels are located, and enables swift action to be taken by councils when illegal brothels open.

    That Community Protection (Closure of Illegal Brothels) Bill would achieve that aim. The bill is the detailed policy response of the Liberal Party to address this problem. The bill has been introduced in this place, and I simply cannot understand Labor's refusal to support it. It would give councils greater power to speedily close down illegal brothels operating in their areas. Personally I would like to see an end to the advertising of illegal brothels in newspapers and telephone directories. I know of no other illegal product that can be legally advertised. It simply does not make sense.

    I want to raise a bigger problem that is looming for the Ku-ring-gai community and other communities across the State. I refer to Labor's plans to allow the operation of home brothels without any capacity for councils to object. The Carr Government's Sex Service Premises Planning Advisory Council reports to the Cabinet Office, one of the two agencies directly reporting to Premier Carr. One of the issues under consideration is achieving what the advisory council terms "equality between private worker home occupations relative to other home occupations".

    I note that the unemotive term "private worker home occupations" means prostitutes working from home. The advisory council is considering the establishment of a State environmental planning policy [SEPP] to deal with home-based prostitution. As Ku-ring-gai residents now know because of other developments, SEPPs override local government controls. An SEPP on home-based prostitution would remove any council's power to deal with home-based prostitution. The existing rules relating to a council's powers to close down illegal brothels may be less than satisfactory given the community's efforts to stamp out illegal brothels, but such an SEPP would make the matter dramatically worse.

    The problem of illegal brothels is a dog's breakfast. Despite Government promises, communities, including Ku-ring-gai, are being blighted by the spread of illegal brothels. The Government is deaf to local residents' concerns, and it seems that its only response is to actively support a council that reports to the Cabinet Office. It appears that the Government's response is to further loosen local government controls over illegal prostitution. It is a disgrace.

    I urge residents to make their views known, perhaps via a petition that is available through my office. I urge residents to press for changes to improve the capacity of councils to close down existing illegal brothels, whether they operate in Ku-ring-gai, Hornsby, Willoughby or other parts of the State. I again indicate that the Opposition's Community Protection (Closure of Illegal Brothels) Bill would, in a very positive and constructive way, overcome the community's concern about what is currently happening. The bill would swiftly enable councils to exercise control over illegal operations, and I simply do not understand why the Government stands in the way of that legislation being passed through this place.