Reason Party leader Fiona Patten has condemned the Victorian Liberal Party’s support for the so-called Nordic model of regulating sex workers, which was passed last week at the party’s state conference.

Patten, a former sex worker and former CEO of adult industry body the Eros Association, challenged the party to hold a straw poll to show how many of its members are themselves clients of sex workers.

“An internal poll like this might show up a considerable level of hypocrisy on the part of those who proposed it at the state conference,” she said.

Sex worker advocates have said the Nordic model, which criminalises clients, is de facto criminalisation of sex work and leads to poorer health, safety and quality of life for workers.

International health and human rights agencies including Amnesty International, World Health Organization, and Global Alliance Against Trafficking in Women have all condemned the criminalisation of sex work, on the grounds that criminalisation threatens worker health and rights.

“This is not a model for regulating sex work but a ban by another name and should be acknowledged as such,” said Patten.

Patten told Star Observer the proposed laws “should be of great concern to all of us”.

“The Liberals need to give the word ‘liberal’ back, because they are no longer a liberal party,” she said.

“They are a conservative right-wing party.

“There is nothing around personal freedoms anymore, they don’t stand for that.”

Patten said she had visited brothels to speak to sex workers about what they need from government.

“I am pretty sure the last time a Liberal visited a brothel it was not for that purpose,” she added.

She said that the existing Victorian laws around sex work “urgently need to be changed” but that the Nordic model—effectively criminalising the industry—was not the answer.

Patten noted that some Greens candidates, particularly Kathleen Maltzahn, also support the Nordic model of criminalising sex work.

“This draconian model must not be adopted in Victoria,” Patten said.

“However, this could be a reality if Liberals and Greens hold balance of power in the lower house.”

The Liberal Party’s move against sex work comes as a crackdown on the industry in the US continues to affect Australian sex workers.

New US laws that conflate trafficking with consensual sex work have led to advertising websites being shut down, leaving workers in a position where advertising and finding work is much more difficult.

Classifieds website Craigslist, which did not allow sex work advertising, shut down the entire personals section of its US site in the wake of the laws passing.

The Australian Craigslist site has today also shut down its personals pages.

The website had been popular with people arranging hookups, particularly for gay men and others exploring their sexuality, with thousands of posts per day in Sydney alone.

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