Prostitute wins legal right to work from Queensland motel
PROSTITUTES have the legal right to work from motel rooms in an Australian state, a court said yesterday, after finding the refusal by one owner to rent to a sex worker a room was discriminatory.
The ruling in the north-eastern state of Queensland has stunned hotel owners, who said they believed they had the right to decide what kind of businesses were operating from their premises.
The prostitute, identified as GK, had taken her discrimination case against the Drovers Rest Motel in the coal mining town of Moranbah to the Queensland state civil and administrative tribunal after management refused to rent her a room.
The motel’s lawyer, David Edwards, said yesterday that the court had notified him that it had upheld the prostitute’s claim of discrimination. Mr Edwards confirmed she is seeking damages, which are reported to be A$30,000.
The tribunal’s reasons for its decision have not yet been made public, but prostitution is legal in Queensland, and discrimination based on lawful sexual activity is outlawed.
Prostitutes are flocking to Outback mining towns such as Moranbah, where they base themselves for short periods to cash in on an Australian mining boom.
Mr Edwards said he was considering appealing the ruling.
Janelle Fawkes, chief executive of the Scarlet Alliance, Australian Sex Workers Association, said the ruling was a major win for the prostitution industry.
“Accommodation discrimination is a major issue for sex workers, but it is not by any means the only form of systemic discrimination that sex workers experience,” she said.
“The anti-discrimination legislation in Queensland is very clear that it is illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of lawful sexual activity, including sex work, so we appreciate the finding and believe it is a big win for sex workers throughout Australia because it sends a very clear message that this kind of systemic discrimination will not be tolerated,” she said.
The prostitute stayed at the motel 17 times in two years before the owners discovered in 2010 that she was taking clients to her room. She was then banned from staying there.
“Not everyone would choose to do the job I do, but it’s not right that they can treat me like as second-class citizen,” she said.
“They wanted me to go away, but I am a tenacious little terrier, and I would not give up,” she said.
Richard Munro, chief executive of the Accommodation Association of Australia, a tourism industry lobby group, said the Queensland and Australian governments should consider changing laws to ensure that hotel and motel owners can decide what sort of businesses are operated under their roofs.
“It’s absolutely illogical,” Mr Munro said. “If a hairdresser decided to set up shop in the motel and started inviting people in to get their hair cut, I think the motel owner would have the right to say, ‘Hang on, that’s a different business operating out of my business’.
“If a prostitute decided to start working out of a shopping mall, the owners would have something to say about it. There is some protection for the rights of the motel owner here,” he said.
Mr Munro said his group would seek legal advice after hearing the tribunal’s reasons.
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