The Bligh Government has rushed "panicked prostitution law reform" through Parliament after "exposure of the explosion of illegal prostitution", said Opposition member Steve Dickson yesterday.
Queensland police minister Neil Roberts introduced legislation changes on Tuesday, including jail sentences of up to seven years for illegal brothel operators and seizure of assets.
Roberts said the Prostitution and Criminal Code Amendment Bill targeted illegal operators masquerading as social escort agencies.
"The Criminal Code currently contains a number of offences dealing with prostitution, but these offences target illegal brothels operating at a specific place. Businesses that masquerade under the guise of a social escort agency often rent office space to undertake activities other than the provision of prostitution, with prostitution provided elsewhere, limiting the ability of police to target and prosecute," he said
"The bill gives police the powers they need to effectively target and prosecute illegal prostitution providers - wherever they operate."
But Dickson said illegal prostitution had exploded in Queensland through the failure of State Government laws which penalised legal operators and let illegal operators off lightly when caught.
"Research by the University of Queensland's Professor Andreas Schloenhardt and others has found that only 10 per cent of Queensland sex workers operate in legal brothels, which confirms what many have been saying for some time - that our laws aren't working ... State laws are driving more and more sex workers onto our streets," he said.
Dickson said proper reforms should introduce heavy mandatory fines for illegal operators that were far higher than the $2000 fines currently being handed down by courts.
"It makes a mockery of the system that legal brothels pay upwards of $30,000 a year in government compliance fees and charges and yet when illegal operators are brought to court they are fined just $2000 -as was the recent case on the Sunshine Coast," he said.