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Prostitution Bill Flawed

Prostitution Bill Flawed

ACT New Zealand Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks today said that he could not remain silent while Christchurch MP Tim Barnett attacked the church's arguments against the Prostitution Bill for `no evidence', when Mr Barnett himself is making claims for which there is no evidence.

"I ended up chairing the Select Committee which heard the evidence. I had wanted, and expected, to vote for the Bill as a straightforward tidy-up, given that prostitution is already legal. I thought soliciting could be covered by other general prohibitions on hard-sell hawking and nuisance," Mr Franks said.

"I eventually voted `no' - because of the false claims being made by Mr Barnett, and his Labour and Green supporters, to be primarily interested in `harm minimisation'.

"For example, they claimed to be against under-aged prostitution. The existing Crimes Act makes prostitution illegal under age 18. Those of us who want the law to mean what it says supported a practical police suggestion that they be allowed to ask for proof of age. After all, even liquor law allows this. The Bill's supporters voted it down.

"Another example is Mr Barnett's claim, on radio this morning, that the law will make things better for prostitutes in brothels - it does the opposite. It replaces current police supervision of brothels - known as massage parlours - with local authority regulation. Local councils lack the staff, experience or powers to keep out criminal elements. The proposed licensing of large brothels, by courts, is similarly laughable as a practical replacement for police oversight.

"What the clumsy new licensing system will do is, in fact, give competitive advantage to completely unregulated street soliciting. I asked for the rationale on our Select Committee - given the clear evidence that street workers were most at risk - but there was no answer.

"I can't stand and watch while the debate is dishonest. The question whether to vote for a flawed, though ostensibly more `liberal' law, to replace a flawed existing law is not easy for an MP from a liberal party. In the end, I concluded the new law is worse than the existing one," Mr Franks said.

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