Local councils will be given new powers to close down illegal brothels within 48 hours of identification, if the Coalition wins the 22 March state election.

The new Coalition policy announced yesterday follows Marrickville Council’s decision last week to permit single sex workers to operate from home.

Opposition leader John Brogden said the powers given to local councils would enable them to take quick action in closing down illegal brothels -“ including single-person home operations.

Under the Coalition’s Bill the onus of proof would be reversed, meaning operators of identified illegal brothels would have to prove that they are not illegal operations, Brogden said.

A Coalition government would also seek to repeal Marrickville Council’s new policy, Brogden said.

The decision by Marrickville Council to allow the spread of single operating brothels in a suburb like Marrickville is inappropriate, he said. We see in Marrickville Council a council that is happy to allow single-prostitute brothels to operate openly, but at the same time they are prosecuting shop-owners who want to secure their shops against theft. Marrickville Council is out of touch.

But private sex workers have welcomed Marrickville Council’s new initiative, and turned up at Brogden’s press conference yesterday to voice their displeasure at his new policy announcement.

It’s been shown time and time again that there is no amenity impact with private sex workers working from home, said private worker Kylie Matthews.

There are existing council complaints procedures which can be undertaken by any resident who is experiencing amenity impact, added fellow worker Thomas O’Halloran.

The Sex Workers Outreach Project estimates that there are currently between 3,000 and 4,000 private sex workers operating from home across the state. Marrickville and South Sydney are the only councils with planning controls which permit single-worker home operations.

Moves by the Coalition to move prostitution out of residential areas compromised the health and safety of private workers, Matthews said.

If I’m in an area working from home that’s not in Marrickville or South Sydney Council, then I am classified as an illegal brothel, and there is no way that I can go to Council to say, -˜I would like a DA,’ she said. It would mean that my home would be advertised in the local newspapers, at Council and on my front door. Now how am I supposed to assure my clients of anonymity and privacy and discretion when I could have a whole mob sitting outside my house?

Private workers are getting a raw deal, Matthews said. There are not many of us who are willing to come forward -¦ because in order for us to gain recognition and rights in order to work anonymously and discreetly, we have to come forward and blow that.

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