Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Australian No-Tell Motel

I've been following the way prostitution in motels has been recently hitting the headlines in Australia.

Prostitution laws vary between New Zealand and the different states of Australia, however there are similarities in law, the issues with how moteliers deal with working girls and how these stories are reported in the media.

Much like New Zealand, many working girls in Australia will often tour away from their own environment and stay in motels to ply their trade. The more obvious hot-sheet locations in Australia are the mining towns in Queensland and Western Australia where it has been breathlessly reported that working girls are making more money in a day than miners do in a week. 

A recent story of interest occurred in Rockhampton, Queensland where a motelier was reported as incorrectly accusing a single woman guest of being a prostitute. The woman was apparently a nurse and had made a three-night reservation at a motel intending to stay-over to attend a training course. During the check-in process, the motelier allegedly inquired if the woman was a prostitute - feelings were hurt, the woman adopted the status of a victim and all of a sudden the hapless motelier attracted unwanted attention from the resulting media scrum. 

This week it was reported that some motels in North Queensland mining centres are requesting that single women sign statements at check-in promising they will not be "offering goods and services for sale" from their room. 

It is common for motels to have a general house rule that restricts guests from operating businesses from their rooms and this is fair enough. This rule is not only directed at prostitution, but from occupants disrupting the peaceful enjoyment of others by operating any business offering goods or services from guest rooms.

I personally dislike having any disclosure clauses on motel registration forms. Including a disclosure that the undersigned will not be operating a "business" in the motel registration form as part of the check-in process would appear to be somewhat evasive, however if the motel is located in an area where demand from working girls is prevalent then I can understand that this could be seen as a necessary evil. It must be noted that a line would be crossed if the motelier is seen to discriminate by singling out particular guests to sign a specific declaration (ie single woman). 

Another story of interest is a $30,000 anti-discrimination case by a sex worker against the Drovers Rest Motel in Queensland. In this case, a sex worker has alleged discrimination after being turned away from a motel claiming that under Queensland law she was permitted to engage in lawful sexual activity. The sex worker has also claimed that she was asked unnecessary questions about being a sex worker and that the motel charged over-the-odds because of her status as a sex worker. 

The breakdown of the $30,000 award sought by the sex worker is interesting: $20,000 is to cover economic losses calculated on the basis that her average daily earnings is $2,000 from seeing four to eight clients, and that if she had been able stay at the Drover's Rest Motel, she would have booked 10 more trips (an admirable workrate!) 

While the moteliers at the Drovers Rest Motel acknowledged that they could not discriminate against the guest's profession, they claimed that they were unable to accommodate the working girl under the provisions of the Liquor Act. 

It was pleasing that the Anti-Discrimination Commission dismissed the case. It was ruled that the moteliers did not refuse future accommodation to a sex worker because of her occupation, but rather because they did not want prostitution undertaken in their motel. 

Apparently an accommodation business owner can dictate some questionable activities that guests engage in from their guest rooms that includes conducting "business activities." Fair enough.
"Accommodation Association of Australia chief executive Richard Munro said the ruling meant accommodation providers now had a clear parameters to refuse rooms to prostitutes. Mr Munro described the ruling as “very pleasing” as growing numbers of members in Queensland were concerned about an upswing in clients who were “not welcome”.
“This is different to short-term stays on business trips, this is people setting up their primary place of trade on premises,” he said.
“Members had been concerned about how to handle these situations without breaching anti-discrimination laws.
“Now owners and managers have a clear precedence for taking action against conduct they don't condone with the protection of the law.”

While New Zealand motels operate under a different jurisdiction, the Queensland case may set the scene if a similar discrimination case occurs here. 

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