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SOUTH Australian sex workers have received renewed hope prostitution will be decriminalised as high-profile supporters get behind their cause.
At a rally on the steps of Parliament House yesterday, Labor backbencher Steph Key announced she would introduce a private member’s bill to decriminalise the industry.
She hopes draft legislation will be completed by the end of the year and a conscience vote will follow.
“The aim would be to ensure we have the highest amount of protection for sex workers and their clients,” she said.
A poll on AdelaideNow revealed more than 70 per cent of voters believed prostitution should be legalised.
SA is the only state not to have changed laws governing prostitution in the past 50 years and it is believed there are at least 1000 people working in the industry. Also supporting industry reform yesterday were Minister for Women Gail Gago, Greens MP Tammy Jennings and Liberal MP Michelle Lensink
Despite failed attempts to reform the sex industry, Ms Key hopes draft legislation will be completed and ready for debate by the end of this year, with a conscience vote following soon after.
“We need to talk to people in the industry a bit further about what model they’re looking at, we really need to make sure any model we do put up reflects what’s happening in SA.
“The good thing is we’ve got a lot of models to choose from because every other jurisdiction in Australia has seen the light.”
Ms Key was speaking at a rally of about 50 sex workers and their supporters on the steps of Parliament House.
Legislation has been unsuccessfully drawn up five times between 1980 and 2001 to modernise the existing laws.
Ms Gago believed there was a “good chance” the legislation would “get through”.
“It’s a new parliament, there’s a lot of new faces in both houses, it’s a conscience vote, it’s really worth giving it a run,” she said.
SA Sex Industry Network manager Ari Reid said sex workers were forced to put police evasion strategies, such as not using condoms because they can be seized as evidence, ahead of safety.
“We’re pushed underground, we have barriers if we want legal access, we’re forced to use these horrible evasion techniques,” she said.