Legislative Council: Thursday, February 09, 2023


Sex Work and Money Laundering

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (14:52): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question to the Attorney-General on the topic of spent convictions for sex workers convicted of money laundering.

Leave granted.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: This state has a convoluted history with the way police have engaged with sex workers. We have women who have worked in the industry for decades, providing safe workplaces for those who wish to work in the industry. I have spoken at length with some of the women who work in this industry, and it is clear that the police tactics used to try to shut down some workplaces and leave others alone are confusing and have led to some adverse outcomes. The tactics also extend to misusing criminal laws to slap these workers with inappropriate charges.

I draw the Attorney-General's attention to women from this industry who have had money laundering charges and convictions accompany their 'keeping brothel' charges for using an ATM within a business, contrary to what most members of the public would think was in fact an act of money laundering. When we usually imagine money laundering, it is significant amounts with much more nefarious process and purpose, yet these women have worked in the sex industry for decades, in many cases cooperating with the police previously, and then copped a money laundering charge and conviction that has left them criminalised and unable to find employment anywhere else.

Looking to start afresh in another industry, these workers then have the often insurmountable hurdle of finding any employment with a money laundering charge appearing next to their name on any police check. My question to the Attorney is: how are sex workers, who have been forced out of their industry, expected to find employment with inappropriate money laundering charges and convictions on their police record?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (14:54): I thank the member for her question; it is an important one. I know she has been a fierce advocate of the decriminalisation of sex work in this state and, as it is a matter of conscience for all parties in this chamber, it is one on which I have supported her endeavours and voted for the bills the honourable member has previously brought before parliament for the decriminalisation of sex work.

I will have to liaise with my colleague the police minister to find some answers, but I will be more than happy to do so and to bring back a reply after receiving a briefing about how the application of the laws of our state are used without fear or favour for all members in the community.