According to the The Prostitution Licensing Authority, the 1999 Prostitution Act came into effect in Queensland in July 2000. Licensed legal brothels and sole operators became available without fear of legal prosecution and since then the escort and brothel industry has shed some of its inglorious past. The PLA states that currently there are 21 licensed brothels in Queensland. However, given the fact there are an abundance of beautiful women on the Gold Coast and even more men who enjoy treating themselves to love-making with gorgeous girls, why hasn’t the escort industry flourished?

Economic factors are one reason, with downturns in local industries a lack of cash flow sees people tightening up their budgets and foregoing the weekly visit to their favourite girl because they need to pay a bill or get their car fixed. Another reason is a local council that is often at odds with an industry that should share the same respect and legitimate platform as that of any other industry on the Gold Coast. Local council inspectors who’d rather go to church than chat with a lovely lady occasionally make it difficult for new brothels to open; even though all the “t’s” are crossed and the “I’s” dotted on applications for licensing. And then there are those massage parlours opening up faster than MacDonald’s chains along a busy highway.

These places pose under titles such as natural therapies and health spas but the reality is, most are plying a trade of illegal sex service that ranges from the “happy ending” to full sex without a condom. This not only takes business away from the legal escort and brothel industries, but endangers clients with health risks, promotes illegal migration into Australia, promotes the abuse of women, and undermines the emergence of sexuality into an era of enlightened thinking.

Drive down the Gold Coast highway, take a walk through Southport, or the local suburbs and you’re likely to see a massage parlour that wasn’t there last week, or has changed its name for fear of prosecution. Go in to these places and book a massage and 9 times out of a 10 you’ll be asked, “Would you like a happy ending with that?”

Unlike legal brothel owners or managers of escort services, massage parlour operators don’t have their employees’ best interests at heart, often pocketing more than half what the girls earn so that in effect the girls are trapped there until they can either save enough money to rent a place, get a legal job, find a sponsor, or get booted out of Australia for lack of a proper visa.

Most of the massage workers are on a student visa and are studying English so they are easily taken advantage of by unscrupulous bosses who funnel the girls in to the Gold Coast with the promise that they will find a husband and get permanent residency. Once here, these girls are kept in the massage parlour, which becomes a place of dwelling for them (which is also an illegal practice), paid next to nothing, fall into debt and are used and abused until the parlour is closed down. The owner then gets a slap on the wrist and opens up another place 50 metres down the road while the girl is returned home and barred from entering Australia ever again.

Proximity of premises is another problem with these parlours. Legal brothers are not allowed to set up business within xxx of schools, etcetera. These massage places establish businesses in shopping centres, across from schools, in family suburbs and raise the local ire of legal businesses, community members and eventually local government. As a result, the legal escort and brothel industry becomes tarred with a brush that has society seeing all forms of sexual service as criminal and something to be stamped out.

There have been police raids on parlours on the Gold Coast and in Queensland but they are infrequent and don’t possess the power to adequately prosecute the owners, who as stated earlier, merely open-up another parlour further down the road, under a different name, and with a different set of girls.

With an excess number of massage parlours establishing businesses every week under the mask of legitimacy, the public become more tolerant and then this gives way to illegal brothels and even worse treatment of girls who work in these places, with even greater financial loss to the legal escort and brothel industries. The illegal brothels then drag the legitimate sex industries into areas of criminality that then have connections to drugs, illegal gambling and sexual slavery. Massage parlours could be at the tip of an unhealthy ice-berg that could see a return to the days of the Fitzgerald inquiry, where criminal enterprises flourished and the sex industry saw no light at the end of the tunnel.

Illegal brothels are operating within walking distance of not only legal sites, but in suburban houses, and factory warehouses and delve into areas that even involve underage prostitution. Women are lured in to the illegal sex trade because they think they will make more money, or they are wary of legalities that concern licensed brothels and escort services, or they are drug addicted and desperate.

Owners of legal brothels and escort services are bound by laws governed at a federal level and policed by the Prostitution Licensing Authority. They have obligations to provide safe premises, health checks for their girls, and security from undesirable clientele. Massage parlours are not bound by such laws and as such are often a gateway into areas of illegal sex trade. These areas of criminality undermine the fabric of society and compromise the efforts of legal brothel owners and legal escort services to lift the image of the escort industry out of the shadows, and establish legitimate businesses that should not have to explain themselves to the public.

Although the state government and Premiere Palasciuz may think they have the best-interests of girls in the escort industry at heart, they are either unaware of this regressive trend towards the illegal sex trade, or they are powerless to act in favour of the legal brothel owners and escort agencies.

Anecdotally, the operator of the first brothel in Queensland, who runs a legal brothel over the border, states that when the Qld Government first set the laws for prostitution in Queensland, the commission, run by former Judge Bill Carter(now deceased), spoke to the girls who worked in the industry but maybe did not listen hard enough. Girls in the escort industry and brothel owners agree the Qld laws are too tough and unmanageable. As stated in the ABC’s 7:30 report, one escort stated that she couldn’t be licensed and not break the law. “The laws are too tough”, stated Susan, an escort who was not licensed. Under Queensland legislation a worker in the escort industry has to work alone instead of on a roster unless in a licensed brothel. Working alone is dangerous considering there are violent predators in society. Susan chose to work with five other girls for protection and therefore couldn’t apply for a license. Added to this, the laws state that licensed escorts have to be in a certain place and work a certain time in what can only be described as an unspoken curfew.

Qld legislation has licensed brothels operating only in industrial areas away from places of education, worship and suburban areas. The legal brothel owner agrees with Jeff Mclaren, a lobbyist for the sex industry, who stated that “industrial areas are not the place for love.” Furthermore, local council and their inspectors have their own agenda and bias often claiming that there are not enough parking places for brothels to operate in areas away from industrial zones. The real reason for this antithetical sentiment towards the escort and brothel industry is the societal stigma attached to these business operators. This is strongly supported by a community that has seemed to become all-too conservative again, and by law enforcement who back the general community zeitgeist.

Fearful of saying too much, the first brothel owner in Qld states that there are elements in the police force that do not support licensing of the industry, either because they have a sense of morality that is incompatible with the escort and brothel industry, or because they are profiting from the illegal sex industry in some underhanded way.

This brothel owner states that he had a girl come to his establishment from over the border literally escaping an illegal brothel in Queensland, who claimed that there was an underage girl working there and the operator was not adequately paying the workers. Another issue for licensed brothels, is proximity and density of brothels in any one place.

Illegal brothels can set up business anywhere and often do so near legal brothels to capitalize on the legal establishments’ reputation and public standing. In doing this, illegal brothels often “steal” girls from legal establishments with the promise of better money, and steal clients with the promise of unsafe sex or lurid sexual practices a decent licensed owner just would not put up with.

As per usual of governments, policy makers, including the former Beattie government and the current Palasciuz government follow their own agendas and their own sense of what is morally acceptable. They are guided by a nanny-state mentality, possibly influenced by unseen powers at the highest levels, and enact laws and enforcement that do not adequately guarantee licensed workers in the escort and brothel industries a “fair go”, or safety. This allows for the continued existence of the illegal sex trade to flourish, with at present, the establishment of massage parlours as hosts for illegal sex workers and as a back-door to criminality that should have been eradicated a long time ago.

So, if you are thinking about visiting a massage parlour for “quick relief” or something more, consider those licensed escorts and brothel owners who are trying to do the right thing, consider that the girl you are with could be suffering in silence, and remember that sex is a beautiful act that should not be tainted with criminality or injustice.

May 2017