Before we started this interview, you mentioned this bill is a “model bill.” What about it makes it model for your organization?
Jules Kim: The model outlined in this bill is actually full decriminalization of sex work. It would be the first such legislation in the world.
The Lancet medical journal predicted that decriminalizing sex work was the single intervention that would have the greatest impact on H.I.V. over the next 10 years.
There are also provisions in the bill that amend other pieces of legislation to prohibit discrimination. If somebody has a conviction just for sex work, they can get it expunged from the record. The committee consulted with sex workers, the National Sex Workers Association and the Scarlet Alliance in the development of the bill, which is why it’s so relevant to the lived context and needs of sex workers.
What restrictions are typically put upon sex workers in older bills?
Jules Kim: Generally what we can find is sometimes what can be called partial decriminalization. There might be registration, checks, zoning so it can only operate in industrial areas, restrictions on street-based or migrant sex workers.
It’s currently still illegal in South Australia and other states. How do sex workers manage the anxiety of being caught and facing very real criminal risks?
Jules Kim: It’s incredibly stressful. It’s something that we have to navigate on a daily basis. When it’s criminalized, sex workers have to prioritize police evasion strategies over health and safety. It also sends the message to not just sex workers but society in general that we’re criminals and outside the justice system, therefore unable to access justice or services.
Where does Australia fit compared to the rest the world in its treatment of sex workers?
Jules Kim: It’s such a complex matrix of laws that govern sex work. On one hand, according to taxation and immigration laws, sex work is deemed as “work,” so if you have a visa that grants you work rights, you can be a sex worker. However, because the sex work laws govern by states and territories, often the federal laws contradict them. It’s quite contradictory when you’re working in a state where you’re considered a criminal and yet you still have to pay taxes.
If it passes the lower house, the bill will be the first full decriminalization in the world. I think it will be an example that many other countries are looking to and striving for.
A By-the-Numbers Digital Blunder
Ask the thousands who tried — and failed — to submit their taxes online yesterday, and they’d hardly be surprised to learn that Australia’s standing on the global digital stage has slipped. Yesterday, at peak tax time, the Australian Taxation Office was forced to shut down its digital services for five hours, citing a maintenance issue.
This week Ernst & Young, a consulting firm, released its annual “Digital Australia: State of the Nation” report. Surveying more than 1,600 Australians, it found that both consumers and “digital opinion leaders” ranked government as the worst-performing digital sector.
Australia ranks 18th on the World Economic Forum’s Networked Readiness Index, which measures the factors seen as necessary for digital technologies to meet their potential. “Although Australia’s Index score is the same as it was in 2014, the nation’s digital position has deteriorated as other countries have advanced,” the report said. Fiascos like yesterday’s outage and the crash of the Australian Bureau of Statistics website on Census Night 2016 highlight Australia’s digital immaturity, especially compared with its overall economy.
But wait, things could be worse.
For all the maintenance issues, bugs and downtime, Australia’s government ranks eighth in the world for its ability to deliver online services to its citizens. While the recent digi-fails might feel uniquely Australian, one only needs to take a cursory look at other countries to put things in perspective.
We do far worse when it comes to internet speeds and affordability. Consumers agree: Two-thirds of Australians think internet speeds are too slow. It’s hard to blame them.
We’ve already covered how the problem is affecting business — anyone who’s uploaded a file over 20 megabytes is familiar with that. This year Akamai, an American networking company, ranked Australia’s broadband speeds 51st in the world. For context, you’d be more digitally productive in Latvia, Kenya and even on Réunion, the tiny French island off the coast of Madagascar.
But here’s a twist that isn’t often discussed. Ever tried streaming something on your phone, using Wi-Fi, only to find that switching to mobile data made the buffering vanish? You’re onto a good thing. Australia’s mobile internet speeds are far more respectful — ranking 11th in the world, a full 22 spots ahead of the United States.
He Who Must Not Be Named
For a shining moment today, Harry Potter and Australian politics became one. After an ABC interviewer asked him about Tony Abbott, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull declined to refer to his predecessor by name.
“I’m not going to comment on the gentleman you described,” he said of Mr. Abbott, who has been criticizing Mr. Turnbull’s government.
Later in the day, Tanya Plibersek, deputy leader of the opposition Labor Party, couldn’t resist comparing Mr. Abbott to another man who could not be named: He’s the “Lord Voldemort of the Liberal Party,” she said.
Nor did her cinematic references stop there: “If I were Malcolm Turnbull,” she went on, “I would be asking myself, ‘How do you solve a problem like Tony Abbott?’”
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