Melaleuca Media
Prostitution after Fitzgerald

How many and how much
Who's who in the zoo
LEGAL BREAKOUT
Are the laws working?
The Sunday Mail wrapup 1996

Prostitution law reform take one didn't work, and you can see why in this rare detailed series published in the Courier-Mail in August 1994.

Journalistically, this is an illustration of how a topic can be covered in detail with as much attention being paid to being analytical as being salacious, and remain a good read.

Includes a 1996 update published in The Sunday Mail.


How many and how much

New laws or not, prostitution is still thriving in Queensland.

It can be found in the Yellow Pages, found in most newspapers under "escorts" or "introductions", found in the suburbs and found on the street.

And there is, very probably, now more and not less prostitution than there was although some of its manifestations are less obvious (or at least less into red lights, suggestive advertising and large street numbers).

It is just over seven years since I investigated the industry in depth for the first time, poking around in relatively obvious brothels and coming up with questions about the dubious role of police in sex industry regulation which were later picked up by one Tony Fitzgerald, QC.

Three years ago, I looked again at the sex industry ? from the relatively detached position of Special Advisor to the CJC.

In recent weeks I have again been visiting the establishments, renewing old acquaintances and making new ones, walking the streets and looking at the industry from all sides. I guess I have as intimate a knowledge of this industry as anyone (although it should be stressed that all contacts have been in terms of my profession, not theirs.)

Taking the longer term view, this industry has changed a great deal in my seven years experience. Fitzgerald's inquiries, police action, inaction and renewed action, and new laws have all had an impact. And although the industry is still settling into a new pattern of operations, its future shape can now be relatively clearly discerned.

How many prostitutes and pimps are currently plying the sex trade in Queensland? No?one really knows, but the first place to look is in the advertisements.

A Saturday paper survey shows that there are 22 women currently available for "introductions" in Cairns and 127 women and two men similarly available for "Escorts?Social" duty on the Gold Coast. As this newspaper is about the only one to follow the spirit rather than just the letter of the law, Brisbane details have to come from the Melbourne Truth (Sport) where "Nightlife Brisbane" doesn't quite fill the page with its 58 box advertisements from the likes of Diva, Crystil, Assiana . . . and Jim.

Most advertisers are either of the newly legal "single sex worker working from own home" variety or those just pretending to be so.

Working out which is which can be difficult. For instance, four Gold Coast advertisements for Surfers Paradise escorts lead back to a Tweed Heads brothel, where a 53 year old woman in front of a bank of phones nightly assumes the tones of a sweet young thing to impersonate Jodie, Tina, Kylie and Amy to incoming callers. (Don't even try to look this up ? publication of this article no doubt means an instant transformation into Skye, Candy, Tori and Dayna)

As well as those who advertise, there are those that don't. They would include a handful of exclusive courtesans with a restricted (and wealthy) client list, some few hundred working in various roles out of establishments either illegal or on the borderline, and the street walkers who are essentially using themselves in lieiu of paid advertising.

Coming up with a precise number is difficult. The police weren't even prepared to guess, on the basis that some are in this industry one night, and gone from it the next. In any case, according to Task Force head Assistant Commissioner Graham Williams, the main concern of the police is not with the prositutes but with 20 or so of the more major operators from around the State.

In other areas of the Police Service, the over?riding concern is not so much with prostitution itself but with keeping the streets clean and the neighbours placated.

It is no use asking the alleged operators ? Mr Goss's "Mr and Mrs Bigs" ? to estimate the numbers. On the record they employ no?one in any capacity related in any way to prostitution. Such people may frequent their premises, sure, but that is purely coincidence or good fortune. The credibility of a number of such stories is currently before the courts.

The most recent estimates of overall numbers were compiled, unofficially, by the Taxation Department, which came up with a guesstimate of 1000 sex workers with most earning below average incomes although a few did very well. A year earlier, the CJC had estimated that 700 full or part?time prostitutes serviced an average five clients a week each, adding up to an industry with a minimum annual turnover of about $15million.

As far as illegal industries go, this is pretty small. Queenslanders smoke, on another CJC estimate, about $600 million worth of cannabis in a year.
Prostitutes are often reputed to be making big money and there is no doubt many are. Claims made in the course of research for this article ranged from $700?800 a night to $700?800 a week.

Working through the figures from the best research, however, many prostitutes would be making $300 a week or less. But on the street, this is an unlikely admission indeed.

Standard charges are about $160?$180 an hour. But Asian men, who seem to be about a quarter of Gold Coast clients, are routinely charged an extra $40?50 on any service. Often, they are also slugged extra to provide commissions to tour guides, taxi and even pedi?cab drivers. Asians are the subject of much ribaldry within the Gold Coast industry ? it would be against the sprit of the Racial Vilification Act to go into it here.

The most often asked ? and politically?charged ? question is whether there is more or less prostitution than before the Fitzgerald Inquiry. Although no?one knows for sure, the answer is that there is probably more, but it is less obvious than in the heydays of the Hapetas, the Bellinos and the old Licensing Branch.

However, the question is misconceived. All the historical evidence would tend to indicate that the law has very little and only occasional influence on the amount of prostitution.

During the Second World War, excess libido or demand increased as a result of large numbers of American servicemen "over?sexed, over?paid and over here." The industry tripled in size and invaded the streets and inner city suburbs. The Commonwealth government went so far as to arrange a special train to bring up Sydney prostitutes.

If there is now more prostitution in Queensland, the reason would be mainly that there are now more people in Queensland. Presumably also, there has been a commensurate increase in the demand for paid sexual services and an increase in those willing, able or prepared to supply them.


Who's who in the zoo Back to top

The popular image of a prostitute, and the standby of numerous cartoons, is of drugged, dissipated or garish women in fishnet stockings under streetlamps.

The reality, mainly, couldn't be more different. Detective Sergeant Alan Colefax of the Gold Coast prostitution squad and Ms Jo?Anne Blain of the prostitutes support group SQWISI were both in adamant agreement on this point.

A manageress of a small brothel, profiling five prostitutes, gives similar testimony. Lady one is a 27 year old cancer sufferer who lost a legitimate job but needs money, and lots of it, for her medical treatment. She doesn't drink, smoke or take drugs and has had a steady boyfriend for the past 9 years.

Lady two, 32, took up the trade when her "ex?husband took everything but the two kids". Lady three, 35, is a widow whose late husband neglected to make out a will or take out insurance. Lady four, 25, has a good day job but is working nights as well to get ahead (which usually means to buy a house or unit). One of her few other vices is being "a light pot smoker".

And lady five is 18 and would otherwise "be on the streets giving it away". She is now off the dole, off the heavy drugs, dresses well and has "a nice unit".

It would take a sociologist to determine whether this is a representative sample but even if just close it threatens the stereotype considerably.

Out in the street, it is a different story entirely, probably best illustrated by a recent minor court drama in Brisbane. The case, the other details of which are unimportant, related to the doings of four apparent prostitutes in a Fortitude Valley sidestreet recently.

The most striking looking of the women looks about 25, but is actually a boy, aged 15. He specialises in $60 "hand jobs" and $80 "head jobs" in parked cars or in parking lots. He has a criminal history but it is not revealed to the court because of his juvenile status.

His companion, a tall, well built, and quite implausible looking woman is in the same line of business. Both try to explain to the court that they are "transexuals", not "transvestites" although they are forced to reveal that they still carry a full complement of male equipment.

The third woman is 35 but looks much older in a good light. Her criminal history runs to 10 pages; it is a record of a life of petty crime and drug use revolving around prostitution. Only she approaches the stereotype, for the other woman looking the part on the street corner that night is a Detective Senior Constable.

Stereotypes also abound about why women enter this industry. For most, there is only one reason . . . money. It pays much more than Woolworths does and for many, Woolworths ? or Social Security ? are among the few other options.

Some like what they actually do and some merely come up with inventive justifications for it. But many clients would no doubt be disturbed to discover how many of the girls of negotiable virtue that they take off into the night really, really detest them. Candy, 21, a single mother of two, was cranky about working in an establishment where there were no showers for her to wash off every vestige of a client the moment he departed her company.

"I just do head jobs and straight sex, and he always goes down on me. I won't do any other positions, period," she said. "He wears a condom so there is no contact. No kissing, no touching, I won't have it."

Many prostitutes have similar codes, with the paradoxical effect that the kiss is usually the most rather than the least of their intimacies. As some explained, reserving some intimacies for private use makes it possible to have a private life.

Clients are the least studied participants in this industry. "All types," is the characterisation one gets from prostitutes, police and proprietors.

Field research for this article consisted of sitting in an establishment for several hours on a Saturday night, watching the clients come through the door. Few would have been over 40, and probably more than half were less than 30.

Most were surprisingly nervous and some paid for an "introduction" only to have a few expensive drinks and leave. There were a number however, mostly from the older group, who bypassed the ever helpful greeting hostess, paid their fee and made a fairly immediate selection, sometimes without even a cursory preliminary chat and drink.

Unlucky refugees from the nightclubs was how one girl unenthusiatically described the crowd, which at one stage consisted of about 25 men milling around ? the establishment seemed to be critically short of women at times and the hostess "the whip cracker" kept coming over to move on any who settled in to talk to the journalist in the corner.

At 12.43 the first Asian arrives ? accompanied by the first Indian. They are the only non?Caucasian clients to enter all night.

"Yobbo night," said one of the girls. That may have been a little harsh but it is true that there wasn't a tie in sight. "Executive nights" are more likely to occur during the week.

The working girls have another distinction they apply to their clients ? there are the "desperates" and there are the "others", basically those indulging themselves or in groups, indulging in some rite of male bravado. This night, the desperates are, as always, painfully evident. But they are in the minority.

Pimps is one generic term for those "living off the earnings"; it covers the bloke in the car watching his girlfriend or employee ply her trade on the street to the owners of large, plush purpose?built establishments. Pimps are as subject to stereotyping as anyone, and some reject the common negative and exploitative image.

Ms Jo?Anne Blain, the SQWISI program director, said "the Mr and Mrs Bigs? I'd love to meet them.

"I don't think I have ever come across a pimp. What you call pimps or spivs are participating in the industry ? it is a comfort to many girls to know that there is a partner there to protect them. These partners are not stealing money, money is being shared ? it might not be Joe Blogg's general public view of the ideal business partnership but we are not talking about the average corner shop.

"People who are referred to in the paper as the Mr and Mrs Bigs of prostitution are often quite good bosses. That might not have been the case once, but there is not now that monopolisation of the industry, there aren't the standover tactics that there used to be."

But to a very senior police officer, the pimps and spivs are "just grubs".

Warren Armstrong ? a former Jehovah's Witness who left the path of enlightenment only to be shoved into involuntary fame by the Fitzgerald Inquiry ? runs Brisbane's biggest and plushest establishment, The Players Inn. It has recently been redecorated ? again ? and its opulent panelling is now vaguely reminiscent of Parliament House.

Armstrong wears enough gold chains, bracelets and rings to fit some pimping stereotypes but, these days, admits only to running a bar where clients may just meet women who may just be prostitutes who may just invite them outside to discuss a suitable price and locality. Whether this is the extent of his involvement or whether it is even legal is a question now before the courts.

Armstrong tends to see himself as a service provider, a contributor to a vibrant economy and overseas tourist industry. To this end, he is about to bring the dubious Melbourne institution of table top dancing to Brisbane, hopefully in time for the Ekka.

It takes a bit of questioning to get behind Armstrong's sense of altruism and gain the admission that one reason he stays in business despite considerable official discouragement including a spell in jail is that "Yes, it is a good business."

Ron Kendall, once a minor player in the Bellino group, until recently ran Touch of Class, an interior decorator's nightmare located in Buranda. At the former parlour, the receptionist was not sure about where Kendall was but keen to conduct a guided tour to demonstrate the utter absence of bedding.

Another tip?off led to 1007 Stanley St, East Brisbane, which combines the decor of a cheap cafeteria and a pool room. No woman present knew the whereabouts of Kendall or who the current owner of their establishment was. For their information, the building is owned by ........ who refused to say who is paying the rent.

On the Gold Coast, the main name from the past is Frank Palmer, although he now operates from The Tweed. His main, perhaps only, establishment is now The Club, a brothel and escort centre located in a building with light industrial architectural appeal and zoning.

Palmer, who was the Gold Coast's largest operator prior to the Fitzgerald Inquiry, was nearly killed in a brutal assault in 1986 which may or may not have had something to do with the emergence of Ron Kingsnorth of Geisha Bath House fame. After the inquiry, Palmer again dabbled in the escort business, at one stage by registering escort agency business names and then seeking a business arrangement with those using the names in advertising.

On the record, he was "just a gardener". Now, after being told that the journalist code of ethics precluded deals on stories, he was still gardening but not talking. Or not really ? he did go so far as to maintain that his Tweed Heads business was quite legal although it is a fair bet that most of its business comes from Queensland.

"You're just as bad as the Fitzgerald Inquiry," he shouted. "They forced me to commit perjury."

One of his former employees and another Fitzgerald Inquiry identity, Brooke Miller, says she now only has a one night a week receptionist job at a Tweed Heads relaxation centre. At the "relaxation centre" they say Miller sold them her lines which used to advertise under Escorts?Social. What sought of relaxation involves nine telephone connections, one wonders.

Kingsnorth, whose original Geisha Bath?House went through several permutations trying to find a legal loophole before closing, is now allegedly overseas. His considerable Tamborine Mountain property has now sported "For Sale" signs for several years now.

And then, on the fringes of the industry, there are a host of others who could be said to be "living off the earnings". They include the drivers, hostesses, and bar attendants employed in or by establishments. Taxi, limo and even pedi?cab drivers taking a commission for delivering customers. Newspapers (although not, consciously at least, this one) and real estate agencies providing services with a nod and a wink.

And, just possibly and more indirectly, this writer, some clean cut police and a host of legal professionals.


How prostitution works

The most visible transactions in prostitution are those that occur on the street. Here and only here, do prostitutes approach prospective clients, usually with some phrase "Looking for a lady, honey?"

Those who look young, clean cut and well built are unlikely to be approached on the basis that they may well be a police officer intent on being solicited.

However, even on the street, many approaches start with the clients, mainly those in cars cruising slowly up whichever section of Brunswick Street currently headquarters the trade. Most of the services are also delivered in cars, usually tucked away more or less discretely in some business's parking lots but occasionally far less discretely on the street. The litter left behind from these sordid, usually rushed, encounters and the long waits between them can include syringes as well as used condoms.

Although there is a relatively heavy emphasis on "wham, bam, thank you Mam" in most prostitution, this element is most pronounced in such parking lot or kerbside encounters.

The street is the refuge of marginalised prostitution ? those who have no unit to work from, for those too young to enter the profession through orthodox channels and for those whose illicit drug consumption precludes work from an establishment. Some clients going for more extended services must, on occasion, be in for a shock ? many of these prostitutes are female by dress or preference rather than through birth.

In mainstream prostitution, however, the approach almost always comes from the client. Under the new laws, an encounter with a prostitute is no longer necessarily an illegal act ? but where it is there is still the legal anomaly that the prostitute faces greater consequences than the client who initiated it.

The anomaly exists in practice rather than in statute. Both clients and workers are always offered a certificate of discharge if they will rat on the operator, an option many clients but few prostitutes take up.

"Clients admit to a criminal offence in a court room and then walk free," said SQWISI program director Jo?Anne Blain. "The one who doesn't get his name in the paper is the one who with intent picked up the the newspaper, with intent made the phone call, ,with intent went into a room with a girl or had her come to him, with intent paid the money and negotiated what the purpose would be, and with intent went through with the verbal contract."

The allegedly illegal establishments are the main focus of police task force activity. These can be variations on a theme of the Bangkok girlie bar, such as Warren Armstrong's Player's Inn, or the old familiar escort agencies or the new style massage parlours offering such traditional natural therapies as nude massage.

Some more bizarre manifestations of prostitution, such as the "lingerie hairdressing salons" that sprang up in the interim between the Fitzgerald inquiry and the new laws, have now disappeared.

What is probably Brisbane's largest escort agency is located a stone's throw from this newspaper office, at 11 Wren St, Bowen Hills. What isn't appearing in this newspaper is the advertisement reading "For sale: Escort agency, going concern, $700,000."

VIP Escorts has a claimed 20 odd women available to cover a busy night although, from experience, such claims are often on the optimistic side. The initial point of contact is a Yellow Pages advertisement, promising exclusive, sophisticated and intelligent company for social occasions. These claims also may be optimistic, or at the very least, misleading advertising.

Possibly just under half the clients don't have any need to consult the advertising ? they are "regulars" who have called many times and sometimes have a standing booking.

Telephone conversations between this establishment and the clients responding to the misleading advertising can be similarly obscure. The law, and the possibility of police posing as clients over the phone to collect evidence, sometimes considerably limits what can be said, promised or negotiated. But eventually, the call will get down to business.

Like the big city law firms, this industry is inclined to charge by the hour rather than by the service. The important issues are how long the "escort" is required for and how the client wishes to pay.

Only about a fifth of clients pay in that most discrete of mediums, cash. Most use credit cards and the agency checks the credit details very carefully before despatching any workers. But the agencies credit card registration is usually a bit misleading ? in the days of the Fitzgerald inquiry vouchers often appeared on the desk of a bank clerk in the name of a company dealing in industrial weighing scales, a restaurant and a courier service. Only trusted regulars can write out a cheque.

Usually also, in the best pizza delivery tradition, clients are asked for a call back number.

For potentially dodgy jobs in particular an in?house driver is used. The prostitute telephones back when she has reached the job and reports if the situation appears normal. Payment is then required at the rate of $170 an hour, $20 extra for "fantasies". Visits can be extended, but only after another flurry of phone calls and credit limit checks.

When a job is finished, a prostitute is required to ring the agency. This is mandatory ? women have been "fined" for neglecting the advisory call. Usually, this is portrayed as a security measure but there is at least room for suspicion that another reason is to prevent women working for an hour and only giving the operator their proportion of what is due for a half hour job.

If the client doesn't have a place fo a girl to come to then there is a Kangaroo Point motel that seems to be in the business of providing such premises. Usually only one room is needed, for it will be used by a succession of prostitutes and their clients.

In effect, what is happening is that the law currently and reasonably effectively discourages anyone from conducting a brothel within the confines of one building. However, operators can disperse the operations of a brothel around the landscape. Economically inefficient it might be but it is apparently still quite profitable.

This "dispersed brothel" model is also behind the Bangkok girlie bar variations that seem to be more popular in Brisbane than anywhere else.

Here the house is extracting an "introduction fee" from clients for just having available prostitutes around. Officially, what then happens between client and prostitute is entirely up to them and only to be discussed and transacted elsewhere.

Warren Armstrong's Players Inn looks like a plush bar and 1007 Stanley St, East Brisbane, looks like a cafeteria. The East Brisbane establishment, if its lease is a document of any credibility, also seems to be trying to run a computer dating service without a computer.

Some of Brisbane's seedier nightclubs and strip joints also attract "drink pullers", who transform themselves into instant prostitutes at any opportunity. Drink pullers attach themselves to single men and groups of men who look likely to first buy them lots of expensive drinks and then possibly make an offer to take the woman home or elsewhere. Then and only then will it be explained that further and more intimate companionship will cost.

Drink pullers still get some payment even if they are rejected at this point ? by arrangement with the bar, the "expensive" drinks paid for by the client all night are actually just an orange juice or coke in the hands of the woman and she picks up the difference from the bar at the end of the night.

Another group of prostitution's specialists offer bondage and related services for a premium fee of up to $300 a hour. Frequently, their services do not extend to sex but are concerned with putting on shows and catering to other bizarre tastes such as whipping.

There is, in this section of the industry, a celebrated tale of a client having to be released from his chains by a locksmith after a key broke off in a padlock. It is perhaps not surprising that this story occurs in a number of localities and with a number of different suitably prominent personalities bound within the chains ? although the name Madam Lash is something of a constant. It is, of course, possible that there is no truth in such a story at all ? but just in case, the locksmith is welcome to drop this writer a line.

The "courtesan" is another tradition going back centuries, and it is a useful word for those prostitutes who have only one or a very few selected clients who keep her in the style to which she has become accustomed. Payments, which can reflect the considerable value of discreteness, can be up to thousands of dollars for a night or a "holiday" (usually a weekend). Payment can also be in kind, as in the rent and other expenses of a riverside unit.

In Queensland at least, there is probably less prostititution involving Asian women and illegal immigrants than some speculations would suggest. Only a handful of Asian names ? Tanny Yang, Asianna, Hai Lin ? appear in the advertising and few establishments can boast much in the way of exotica (and when they can, they do boast ? discretely).

There are rumours of Asian prostitutes who service only the Asian community but, as the Asian community keeps to itself about such matters, it is hard to be certain whether rumour has any foundation in fact.

Brisbane might have a Darra, or area where the Vietnamese community congregates, but Darra is as yet no Cabramatta.

Even on the Gold Coast the Asian prostitute is still extremely uncommon. "We are only aware of a few Asian girls working on their own," said Sergeant Alan Colefax of the Gold Coast prostitution squad.

"But one night we just missed a live sex show being put on for a group of about 30 Asians in a unit. The show was put on for $1000, which covered drinks and hors'd'ouvres, and I would imagine this happens on request now and then."

Asian tourist clients are much talked about within the industry, partly for their predilection for travelling in groups and partly for some of their unconventional requests and reactions.

"Sometimes, we are told, they just want to look," Sgt Colefax said.

Some in and around the industry have discerned a trend towards both younger workers and younger clients.

According to Jo?Anne Blain, of SQWISI, "Just before the law was changed, the average age of new people entering the industry was anywhere between mid 20s to mid 40s and predominantly from divorced and separated women. The average age now is back to where it used to be, back with 18, 19, 20 year olds".

LEGAL BREAKOUTBack to top

Under the law, prostitution is a sexual act with another person under an arrangement of a commercial character. The law permits:

A single sex worker operating from single premises

The provision of health services and safe sex equipment to persons working as prostitutes

The law prohibits:

Procuring a person to engage in prostitution

Knowingly participating in the provision of prostitution

Any person being found in a place reasonably suspected of being used for prostitution

Having an interest in premises used for the purpose of prostitution

Permitting young or mentally impaired persons to be at a place used for prostitution

Public soliciting for the purpose of prostitution

Advertising prostitution and

Causing a nuisance associated with prostitution.

Other provisions:

A person charged with the offence of being found on premises may apply to a court for a certificate of discharge if they make a true and full disclosure of their knowledge of related prostitution offences. A health service provider can not charged or compelled to give evidence and "safe?sex" equipment such as condoms can not be used as evidence of prostitution offences.
Police investigating alleged prostitution offences can require a person to provide name, address and age and can require evidence of personal details or arrest on reasonable suspicion of being provided with false information.


Are the laws working? Back to top

Queensland's new prostitution laws are still on trial, quite literally, before the courts.

A number of significant cases, including the long running and much disputed attempt to prove that Warren Armstrong is doing something illegal with his variation on a theme of a Bangkok girlie bar in Spring Hill, will determine how effective the laws are against the so?called "Mr and Mrs Bigs".

Police, generally, are pleased with the laws although not so pleased with the way courts have sometimes declined to see things their way. Prostitutes and their representatives, generally, are opposed. No proprietor had a good word to say for them ? something police might be inclined to view as a tick on their side of the ledger.

As far as the general community is concerned, the jury is probably still out. The social and health effects of the law can't be evaluated by adding up prosecutions, successful or otherwise.

A little history shows that while the law and the way it is enforced has little influence on the amount of prostitution it does have a great effect on the form prostitution takes.

In the early 1900s, when the concern was with VD, the law emphasised medical inspections over prohibition. Notorious "houses" of prositution where police could easily collect the workers for the weekly trip to the doctors were effectively tolerated for the next 48 years.

In 1959, a corrupt police commissioner just closed the "houses", sometimes with the simple expedient of putting a lock and a guard on the front door. Whatever the real intention, the change from medical to police regulation encouraged corruption and by the 1980s, a small group of police was effectively franchising prostitution.

The initial closure of the "houses" put the prostitutes back into the streets and hotels ? the franchising operation produced some ostentatious brothels.

Fitzgerald drove the industry underground and the long wait for the CJC report and the government's response brought it out into the open again.

The situation now seems to be that there are fewer establishments maintaining their legality and more police engaged in establishing their illegality. Although commercial sex is the purpose of such places, it very rarely takes place in them ? the established brothel in the traditional sense of the word has all but ceased to exist.

As it is now legal, it is not surprising that there are now significantly more single sex workers operating from home or pretending to be single and at home on their own or someone else's behalf. This can create the situation where a usually very temporary brothel suddenly appears in a suburban neighbourhood.

But certain favored (or disfavored) areas have also seen a significant increase in street prostitution.

SQWISI program director Ms Jo?Anne Blain said that, "The industry has basically gone underground and is illegal, except for the obvious places that have changed structure."

Corruption wasn't an issue with anyone except Gold Coast veteran Frank Palmer who seemed to believe that insufficient attention was being paid to some of his business competitors still operating on the Queensland side of the border. "I am in New South Wales and I am not paying anybody," he said.

But Ms Blain of SQWISI thought that the new prostitution squads were "hand picked, and come from the good school of police officers".

"If you're obvious, you are going to get done," she said.

The man in overall charge is Assistant Commission Graham Williams, who was once hand?picked himself by Tony Fitzgerald to clean out the Licensing Branch. Looking at the very large and imposing Asst Commissioner Williams one imagines that the technique could easily have involved undesirables being launched horizontally through the doors.

No, corruption is not really an issue. Or maybe that should be, not yet.

Assistant Commissioner Williams does not believe the law should be judged solely on the basis of successful prosecutions.

"Look, we are not going to get rid of prostitution and we are not pretending that we will," he said. "What we are doing is curtailing it down to manageable levels. Criminals never go on to be Presbyterian Ministers, but you can stop them getting too big or too organised."

Warren Armstrong took out his well?thimbed copy of the Prostitution Act and said the government was "putting its head in the sand."

"Asians land at the international airport and the first thing they want to do after settling in to their accommodation is to see an Australian lady," he said. "What do we expect them to do ? look up a telephone number in a Melbourne newspaper and then make an arrangement so that a single operator opens her front door to find 12 of them standing on the front steps? I thought we were supposed to be promoting tourism."

The industry itself is obsessed with the appearance of legality. What else, for instance, is one to make of a sign reading "Brisbane's House of Domination, specialising in bondage, discipline and erotic fantasies ? All businesses conducted within Qld legislation."

With the possible exception of the Yellow Pages, advertising has also become far more discrete. In Tweed Heads, Frank Palmer is offering "Mistress Kitty: enter my world dominance private dungeon, explore your desire, cross dresser, submit to the sublime", whatever that may mean. In Queensland, it would be "Kitty, Surfers Paradise" and a telephone number.

Although it is now legal to work from home, alone, many workers do not like doing so. Given the predominance of single mothers in the industry, this is not surprising. Children, often small children, clients and sexual commerce would not appear to be an ideal social mixture.

"Many are very fearful that people will say they are an unfit mother, not because of the way the child is cared for or dressed or for any other reason, but because they are a sex worker," Ms Blain said. "And that has come up in some Family court cases."

The new laws were also promoted as a healthier alternative to the old situation, but Ms Blain believes that health risks in the industry have increased.

"Premises can no longer tell the girls about safe sex practices, they can't supply safe sex materials to their girls because they can't be seen to be knowing that sex happens there or happens elsewhere from there," she said. "Also, a single worker operating from her own home can be pressured more easily into unsafe sex practices."

Safety is the other major concern, and SQWISI statistics indicate a marked increase in violent incidents since the new laws came into effect. In a 10 month period prior to the law changing, seven violent assaults, four rapes and five robberies were reported. In the first 10 months after the legislation was introduced the tally was one murder, 17 violent assaults, 16 rapes, 6 robberies and an abduction.

Ms Blain also wonders, as have many others, whether policing prostitution is the best use of scarce police resources.

"I at one stage pulled my staff from doing outreach work in the Valley because of the violence down there," she said. "And yet they were having a car parked in a sidestreet with three male police officers in it, female police officers standing on the street posing as sex workers and a van parked around the corner with two male police officers in it and five minutes down the road there are people being bashed and robbed ? is that well spent money?"

The new laws are to be reviewed, probably from early next year. Those doing the review have a job in front of them for no place on earth has come up with the perfect solution to incorporating an inevitable, but often distasteful, commercial sex industry into a civilised society.

The Sunday Mail wrapup 1996Back to top

SEX INDUSTRY HEADS FOR THE SUBURBS

Aggressive policing and an economic downturn have sent the prostitution industry where the government said it wouldn't go ? into the suburbs. Meanwhile, police armed with some very broad definitions are about to see if courts will accept lap and tabletop dancing as prostitution offences. Phil Dickie, who has been intensively monitoring the industry since before the Fitzgerald Inquiry, looks at the issue that helped do in Queensland's last National Party government and is waiting in ambush for any incoming coalition government.

"Brisbane's House of Domination" says the out of character neon sign outside a small colonial in inner city Spring Hill. By way of more detail, the sign explains that the business specialises in "Bondage, Discipline and Erotic Fantasies" but "All businesses are conducted within Queensland legislation."

The courts have several times found the final claim wanting, convicting one Garth Donelly of participating in prostitution at the premises.

Further up the road, just across the road from National Party headquarters, former Fitzgerald Inquiry identity Warren Armstrong still has the doors of his Player's Inn open for business. But what sort of business now goes on behind the garish purple street lighting?

Armstrong also has been convicted, after years of raids, prosecutions and appeals, of prostitution offences. "No prostitution here," he said of his premises last week, calling over some of his exotic dancers to confirm the point.

Outside, a woman who may or may not have been connected with the premises asks, "Are you looking for a woman for the night".

Further inside, in poorly lit lounges, naked dancers are gyrating back and forth on the laps of clients who aren't particularly keeping their hands to themselves. But the clients, who pay $20 for each 10 minutes of so?called lap dancing, stay clothed.

A Touch of Class, a Buranda massage parlour come brothel come escort agency that survived the Fitzgerald Inquiry, has shut up its doors for good. Former owner Ron Kendall, another inquiry identity, appears to have gone into retirement even before receiving his convictions for prostitution offences.

One of the Mr Bigs of pre?inquiry prostitution, Hector Hapeta, came out of jail, went back into his old line of business and has since gone back into jail as a consequence. On the Gold Coast, Ron Kingsnorth has departed, perhaps permanently, for his old stamping ground of New Zealand vice dens while his old rival, Frank Palmer, currently faces charges over alleged escort agency operations straddling the Queensland?New South Wales border.

Other operators have been charged and convicted in Townsville and Cairns.

With the police successes in curbing organised prostitution behind flashing lights, most of the industry is now appearing in the form made legal by the new legislation ? a single prostitute, operating alone, from their own premises.

These are mostly women, the largest identifiable proportion being single mothers, operating from their own homes.

Formerly, prostitution services were mainly available in the inner ring of suburbs ? Fortitude Valley, Woollongabba, Petrie Terrace and Spring Hill having the greatest concentrations. Staff at the sex worker support centre SQUISI (Self?Health for Queensland Workers in the Sex Industry) confirmed that although the inner city areas are still the best serviced, there now a much wider dispersion of prostitutes and the trend was continuing.

"They are everywhere," said one staffer. Detective Inspector Ron Pickering, the police Metro North regional crime co?ordinator, agreed: "It makes sense ? the government in their wisdom has said they can operate from their own homes, without committing any offence.

"Once they advertise, we can act."

Naturally, the single operators do advertise and last week services were on offer from Lisa of Newmarket, Collette of Aspley, and Taylor from Coorparoo among others.

Organised prostitution has essentially retreated underground to the business of organising apparent single sex workers. A police spokesperson confirmed that a major emphasis of the Special Operations Task Force was tracking down the organisers and financiers of rings of "single" sex workers.

Those operators, like Armstrong, who have been driven out ? however temporarily ? from the prostitution business are now moving into the titillation business.

But they may not be entirely safe there either. The police spokesperson confirmed that another major concern of police was the current craze for lap and table?top dancing.

A woman faces a magistrate this week for lewd behaviour in a hotel, with those who allegedly employed her to behave lewdly due to appear soon after on charges of participating in prostitution.

Prostitution? The police spokesperson pulled out a well?thumbed copy of the act and referred to provisions setting out that "prostitution" is engaging in a "sexual act" under "an arrangement of a commercial character".

A sexual act need not involve any sexual contact, need not involve money as the reward, and the arrangement may include cases where no payment is made by client direct to sex worker.

On these definitions, Mr Armstrong's lap dancers and Mr Armstrong himself would appear to be at some risk. But Mr Armstrong, who also has a very well thumbed copy of the prostitution legislation, appears unconcerned.

The initial police thrust has been directed against hotel licencees, some of whom have been running more and more risque shows to stir up otherwise sluggish business.

Inspector Pickering said "We are constantly monitoring how far they go," but admitted to uncertainty about how far was far enough.

"If it is a straight, common strip, there is very little we can do," he said.

Police have also been successful in subduing if not eliminating street prostitution, which appears to favor Brunswick Street, New Farm, above all other streets.

Inspector Pickering agreed that the "street is very quiet at the moment," adding that he only had four police handing all prostitution offences and "I can't afford to have them doing streeties all the time".

Some, however, question the cost and effects of this success. Ms Jo?Anne Blain, the director of the sex industry support group SQWISI noted that a court had been told that a recent police operation had cost $21,000 to investigate and prosecute.

The operator convicted of the major offence received a six month suspended sentence.

"Some operators have now been before the courts on a number of occasions but this does not seem to cause the courts much concern," Ms Blain said.

The courts have given other operators fines of as low as $100 for offences potentially carrying jail sentences of three years.

It might seem strange that those representing the interests of prostitutes should seem supportive of pimps and their establishments. Ms Blain explains the SQWISI interest in the terms that sex workers grouped in establishments are exposed to much less danger and much easier to reach with health and educational campaigns.

There is no doubt there has been an increase in violent attacks on sex workers, and that this is linked to the change in the legislation. For the 10 months prior to the change, sex workers reported seven violent assaults, four rapes and five robberies. In the succeeding 10 months, there was one murder, 17 violent assaults, 16 rapes, six robberies and an abduction.

According to Ms Blain, the law also increases some of the social risks attached to prostitution. "The most common cause of dispute between client and sex worker is the client trying to insist on unsafe sex practices," Ms Blain said.

Another issue, not much commented upon in the debate, is the social effect of a law legalising and in a sense encouraging work from home in an industry where the largest number of workers are mothers, often of quite young children. In old fashioned terms the children would have been regarded as being exposed to some degree of moral danger from which the law would have endeavoured to protect them.

With understandable caution, opposition police spokesperson Russell Cooper would not be drawn on what any incoming coalition government would do in relation to the prostitution industry.

"We are not going to be changing the world overnight," he said. Although he said he was keen to see the workings of the new laws evaluated, he wasn't about to commit himself to the review that Labor promised but never delivered on.

Writers note: The Beattie Labor government implemented the basic CJC proposal for small legal brothels nearly a decade after the recommendation was made.