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The Anti-Soliciting Bill: What Needs to Be Done

Thu 13 Jun 2013 In: Comment View at Wayback View at NDHA

Over the last month, I've focused attention on the reality of transsexual street sex workers lives and the profound threat that the Manukau City (Regulation of Prostitution in Specified Places) Bill represents for them. What can we do to assist these vulnerable women? It seems pointless trying to negotiate any further with the unresponsive clique of local Auckland City Council members and local board representatives who seem to be driving this policy. The Prostitutes Collective is to be commended for trying to repeatedly do so, but the above parties seem to be immune to evidence-based rebuttals of their animus against street sex workers, whom they scapegoat for greater social problems that are not their sole responsibility or cause. As Annah Pickering, Dr Gillian Abel and others have pointed out in their parliamentary submissions on the Manukau City (Regulation of Prostitution in Specified Places)Bill, these include an overabundance of pubs and liquor stores in Central Manukau City, resultant patron violent and antisocial behaviour, the closure of council public toilets after midnight and denial of sex worker use of council rental accommodation for private sex work. Indeed, the Council's own propaganda booklet, "Street Prostitution in South Auckland Communities" cites Manukau Courier articles that suggest that the "problem" predated the decriminalisation of street sex work within the Prostitution Reform Act 2003. To remedy this conflict, several policies will need to change. On a fundamental level, the problem seems to be public inebriation and related antisocial and violent behaviour. I would suggest that the Council needs to pass more stringent bylaws aimed at this social problem, which pervades the whole of their city. If they have limited powers to do so, then future central government initiatives need to strengthen existing alcohol restriction and control legislation. The Auckland Council should open public amenities for longer, so that adequate public toilet access is available. Most seriously, it also needs to completely abandon its prohibition against use of council rental accomodation for the purposes of private sex work. This is obstructing the observable shift from managed brothel to private and individual or small-scale escort work observable in current statistical evidence available about the evolution of sex work as an occupation within New Zealand. This brings me to the second set of recommendations within this article. As I have stated repeatedly in this column beforehand, it is scandalous and inexcusable that New Zealand continues to omit gender identity discrimination from our Human Rights Act 1993, as Australia has such legislation at all federal, state and territory levels, as do Canada and the United Kingdom. If gender identity had already been directly included within the Human Rights Act 1993, then Auckland Council would never have been able to ban sex work from council rental premises, otherwise it might have fallen afoul of the act on the basis of transphobic employment policies. And according to Gillian Abel's research at the University of Otago, as well as Charlotte Ama's parliamentary submission to the Local Government and Environment Select Committee, homelessness or transient living conditions are a serious problem for many street sex workers. Even those that are in council rental accomodation may decide that seperating their accomodation needs from street sex work may be a prudent option, given this foolhardy policy. Furthermore, when it comes to sex work as an occupation itself, brothels would be unable to continue to discriminate against employing indoor sex workers either. If these contextual steps were taken to prevail over moral absolutism, street sex workers could change venues from the streets to indoor employment, and any problematic street sex worker behaviour might therefore be reduced. I suspect that the Auckland Council will not do this unless forced to do so, because its scapegoating approach to the issue of sex work would then be exposed for the moral panic that it is. My third recommendation is one of context too. As I have stated beforehand, there needs to be specifically focused and comprehensive transsexual-centred health and social services within Aotearoa/New Zealand as a whole and within the Manukau City area. Educational reform and comprehensive antibullying legislation need to target transsexual youth at risk. Appropriate emergency shelter needs to be provided for transsexual adolescents and women fleeing violent relationships or families. If religious emergency shelter providers are engaging in service provider discrimination in this context, then they need to halt doing so immediately. Not all religious emergency shelter providers do so, however- I would commend the submissions made from the Auckland City Mission and Charlotte Ama on that basis, as well as Streetreach, the Methodist Church's Lifewise and Christchurch's St.Lukes Anglican Church in the City for a welcome alternative Christian perspective on this issue. Vocational training needs to occur in this context, and encouragement to resume and continue their education and increase alternative employment opportunities. It is scandalous that the Auckland Council claims to be inclusive when it comes to LGBT policy development, yet is obviously completely unaware of the need for transsexual-inclusive health and social services within Manukau City. It is also scandalous that apart from the Prostitutes Collective and AIDS Foundation, LGBT community organisations have done so little to actively improve the lives of these vulnerable women. Fourthly, and finally, we need to take urgent practical steps to combat this grave threat to the lives, health and safety of transsexual and cissexual street sex workers. I would advocate the formation of a Committee for the Defence of Sex Workers to shut down the Manukau/Auckland anti-soliciting bill and actively lobby MPs to vote against it. The Local Government and Environment Select Committee consists of Maggie Barry (National, North Shore), Jacqui Dean (National, Waitaki), Paul Goldsmith (National List), Phil Heatley (National, Whangarei), Gareth Hughes (Greens List), Raymond Huo (Labour List), Moana Mackey (Labour List), Eugenie Sage (Greens List), Maryan Street (Labour List), Louise Upston (National, Taupo), Nicky Wagner (National, Christchurch Central) and Andrew Williams (New Zealand First, List). The current chair is Ms Wagner. When it comes to Auckland Council, Mayor Len Brown has been a strong supporter of the Manukau City antisoliciting bill both before and after his election as supercity mayor. Unfortunately, mayoral aspirants John Minto (Mana) and Maurice Williamson have made no public statements related to the antisoliciting bill, although it should be noted that Mana MP Hone Harawira has been a strong critic of this legislation, precisely because many street sex workers are Maori or Pacific Islanders. As for Mr Williamson, he has always been an outstanding centre-right social liberal within the National Party parliamentary caucus. One hopes for clarification from both gentlemen. Other local authority figures associated with this bill are Papatoetoe-Otara Local Board members John McCracken, Leau Peter Skelton, Stephen Gray and Ian McGechie. Again, LGBT Aucklanders need to take a greater interest in civic affairs. This seems an uncanny repetition of the time in the nineties that the centre-right Citizens and Ratepayers council slate was hijacked by the Auckland Christian Right, particularly then-Mayor Les Mills and Deputy Mayor David Hay, and used against the Hero Parade of that period. However, Mills and Hay were then voted out of office, so local body activism does work. I would advocate something similar occur in this case. What about parliamentary voting records on the issue? It has been nearly a decade since the passage of the Prostitution Reform Act 2003, so I've decided to limit myself to the Manukau City (Control of Street Prostitution) Bill and Manukau City (Regulating Prostitution in Specified Places) Bill, with some extrapolation for caucus turnover since 2010. MPs who voted for the introduction of the second bill and who are currently still in Parliament after 2011 were the below. Note that I've highlighted those who voted against the second reading of the first such anti-soliciting bill: For: Amy Adams (National, Selwyn), Shane Ardern (National, King Country), Chris Auchinvole (National, List), Paula Bennett (National, Waitakere), Chester Burrowes (National, Whanganui), Simon Bridges (National, Tauranga), Gerry Brownlee (National, Ilam), Cam Calder (National, List), Jonathan Coleman (National), Judith Collins (National), Clayton Cosgrove (Labour, List), Bill English (National, Southland), Chris Tremaine (National, Otaki), Phil Twyford (Labour, Te Atatu), Chris Finlayson (National, List), Craig Foss (National), Phil Goff (Labour, Roskill), Phil Heatley (National, Whangarei), Tau Henare (National, List), Raymond Huo (Labour, List), Paul Hutchinson (National, Port Waikato), Stephen Joyce (National), John Key (National, Helensville), Colin King (National), Sam Lotu-Liga (National, Maungakiekie), Tim Macindoe (National, Hamilton West), Anne Tolley (National), Louise Upston (National, Taupo), Nicky Wagner (National, Christchurch Central)-has indicated that she may vote against the bill's second reading: Chair of Local Government and Environment Select Committee), Nanaia Mahuta (Labour), Todd McClay (National), Murray McCully (National, East Coast Bays), Damien O'Connor (Labour, West Coast), Hekia Parata (National, List), David Parker (Labour), Najan Prasad (Labour, List), Ross Robertson (Labour, Heretaunga), Eric Roy (National, Invercargill), Tony Ryall (National), Sua William Sio (Labour, Mangere), Katrina Shanks (National), Nick Smith (National, Nelson), Lindsay Tisch (National), Kate Wilkinson (National, Waimakariri), Maurice Williamson (National, Howick). Possible Additional Support: Ian McKelvie (National, Rangitikei), Alf Ngaro (National, List), Mike Sabin (National, Rodney), Jonathan Young (National, Whanganui), Winston Peters (NZF Leader), Tracy Martin (NZF List), Andrew Williams (NZF), Richard Prosser (NZF), Barbara Stewart (NZF), Dennis O'Rourke (NZF), Asenati Taylor (NZF). Assuming Defections from the Highlighted MPs: 46 votes. Possible Other Defections: Paul Hutchison (National, Port Waikato- usually social liberal voice of reason within caucus); Stephen Joyce (usually social liberal vote); John Key (if he senses a political backlash against its passsage); Chris Auchinvole (indicated support for transsexual rights previously) Adjusted total: 42. Against: Jacinda Ardern (Labour), Carol Beaumont (Labour), David Cunliffe (Labour), Claire Curran (Labour), Lianne Dalziel (Labour, Christchurch East), David Cunliffe (Labour), Ruth Dyson (Labour, Banks Peninsula), Catherine Delahunty (Greens), Metiria Turei (Greens), Te Ureroa Flavell (Maori Party), Kevin Hague (Greens), Hone Harawira (Mana Party), Chris Hipkins (Labour, Rimutaka), Gareth Hughes (Greens), Maryan Street (Labour), Shane Jones (Labour), Annette King (Labour), Iain Lees-Galloway (Labour, Palmerston North), Moana Mackey (Labour), Trevor Mallard (Labour), Sue Moroney (Labour), Grant Robertson (Labour, Wellington Central), Pita Sharples (Maori Party), David Shearer (Labour), Melissa Lee (National), Tariana Turia (Maori Party) Original total, adjusted for 2011 election: 26. Probable additional support: David Clendon (Greens), Russell Norman (Greens), Kennedy Graham (Greens), Eugenie Sage (Greens), Jan Logie (Greens), Steffan Browning (Greens), Denise Roche (Greens), Holly Walker (Greens),J. Genter (Greens), Mojo Mathers (Greens) Adjusted Total, with Greens: 37 Additional possible support: Jo Goodhew (National), David Clark (Labour), Kris Faafoi (Labour, Porirua), Andrew Little (Labour), Louisa Wall (Labour, Manurewa), Megan Woods (Labour, Wigram), Claudette Hautiti (National), Maggie Barry (National), Nikki Kaye (National, Auckland Central), Jami-Lee Ross (National) Adjusted Total, with additional Labour and National support: 47 Adjusted with defections from Yes supporters: Paula Bennett, Clayton Cosgrove, Phil Twyford, Phil Goff, Tau Henare, Nicky Wagner, Nanaia Mahuta, Murray McCully, Damien O'Connor, David Parker, Maurice Williamson. Adjusted Total, Probable Defections: 58 Adjusted with Possible Defectors: Chris Auchinvole, Paul Hutchison, Stephen Joyce, John Key. Adjusted Total, Possible Defections: 62. Adjusted Opponent Total, With Defections: 38. If this is accurate (and it is doubtless an approximation only, there would be a substantial margin against the second reading, insuring its defeat. I would suggest that given that the Greens have stated that they will all vote against the second reading that we concentrate our attention on the Labour and National MPs in the current Yes list for the Manukau City (Regulating Prositution in Specified Places) Bill who voted against the second reading of the Manukau City (Control of Street Prostitution) Bill, as well as the additional possible supporters, probable defectors from the Yes vote, and the possible defectors. While the current dissent within the Local Government and Environmental select committee over the passage of this bill (reflected in Wagner's change of heart) is welcome, we cannot take anything else for granted. We need to concentrate our collective attention on defeating this bill at its second reading, or failing that, its third. Clearly, Labour's drubbing took a toll on opponents of the bill in 2011, although this was countered by the increase in Green parliamentary representation. Unfortunately, that election also meant the return of New Zealand First. Practically, we need to do something. I hope that the above analysis will be helpful. Recommended: "Prostitution bill loses way" Manukau Courier:21.06. 2011: "Prostitution bill delay a good thing" Auckland Now: Simon Collins: "Officials to discuss restoring power to arrest prostitutes and clients" New Zealand Herald: 28.05.2013: Craig Young - 13th June 2013    

Credit: Craig Young

First published: Thursday, 13th June 2013 - 1:05pm

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