Support from some Green and Labour MPs for conservative Manukau prostitution legislation is a real shocker

This week I was shocked to see the earthquake recovery legislation rushed through the House with support from all political parties

Even the Greens were willing to vote for a bill which gives Government powers nothing short of totalitarian – with appreciation to Andrew Geddis for his excellent comment on the matter here on Pundit yesterday.

However, last week, and in a different way, I was equally horrified to see the Manukau City Council (Regulation of Prostitution in Specified Places) Bill pass its first reading by a large majority, including with the support or abstention of three Green Party MPs.

I am beginning to wonder what is going through the minds of some of my former colleagues, and of Parliament itself, in its acceptance of totalitarian rights for the state and - apparently - of the right of a local council to formulate its own criminal law overriding national legislation.

I fronted for the Green Party during the long, difficult process of shepherding Tim Barnett’s Prostitution Reform Bill through the House in 2002 – 2003.

I also sat through the Select Committee process and again spoke for the Greens on a very similar Manukau City Council bill in 2006.

The Green Party has traditionally prided itself on standing up for those who are vulnerable and dispossessed. Our position on decriminalisation was firmly based in the party’s values around compassion and empowerment.

It is hard to think of a more vulnerable group of people than the street sex workers, female, male and transgender, who work at Hunters Corner, and I respect the hard hitting critique in last week’s Hand Mirror blog.

At the same time, I do understand the desire of Manukau businesspeople and councilors to ‘clean up’ their neighbourhood. However, many of their complaints in fact revolve around things like people relieving themselves in dark corners, littering, and alcohol abuse.

The remedies to these problems lie elsewhere than in criminalising prostitutes. Has the Council installed safe, clean public toilets open 24 hours? What work is done on litter control? Are all concerned pushing the Government to strengthen the content of its proposed alcohol law reforms? Will the council repeal the bylaw which prohibits brothels in large parts of the city? What extra financial resources are they giving to community and church groups who work to help street prostitutes who want to improve their lives?

Now, as last time around, it feels to me that the street health and safety problems, while real enough, are very much a smokescreen for a group of people who are morally opposed to the decriminalisation of prostitution, and who wish to overturn the law locally even if they are unable to do so at the national level.

I do not understand why some Labour and Green MPs - who all profess to come from a kaupapa of social justice - think the solution to the Hunters Corner situation is to allow a local council to recriminalise prostitutes with fines of up to $2000.

Talk about penalising the victim rather than looking for constructive solutions.

I congratulate the Maori Party MPs for taking a principled stand on this matter – perhaps they are simply the only party who collectively have a firm understanding of the realities of life for young, disproportionately Maori street prostitutes in Manukau.

I am really disappointed that the two leading candidates for the Auckland mayoralty both appear to support this latest bill – Len Brown, if anyone, should certainly know better.

It does not bode well for the future of our city that whoever becomes mayor takes such a conservative and patriarchal position, rather than looking at a constructive and developmental approach.

It does not bode well for the future of our country that so many MPs, including some from parties who avowedly support values of social justice and compassion, are so quick to support such illiberal and backward-looking legislation.

The whole situation is made even more ridiculous by the fact that the Manukau Council goes out of existence very shortly.

As I said last time around, I hope this unfortunate bill will be consigned very shortly to the dustbin of history, where it belongs.

Comments (10)

by Mr Magoo on September 16, 2010
Mr Magoo

That is the problem with fear. It stops things going through he mind.

John Key's popularity must sure have them very scared....

by Stephen Day on September 16, 2010
Stephen Day

Thanks Sue.  I'm glad someone's raising concerns about the Manukau Bill.  I'm quite saddened by how many MPs have voted (or not voted).

by dave on September 16, 2010

Since similar legislation failed back in 2006,  Cosgrove, Finlayson, Goff, Henare, Hide, Hodgson, Jones, McCully, O'Connor, Power, Roy, te Heuheu, and Wong all changed their vote to support this legislation. Wonder what the vote would have been had National allowed a conscience vote? Choudhary was allowed to use his conscience vote this time.  I wonder how much the new supercity will sway  the 2nd reading vote?


by dave on September 16, 2010

oops for " support" read " oppose". :-(

by GoFigure on September 17, 2010

Why wonder what Green MPs are thinking Sue? They are your friends colleagues in the Party - didn't you ring them up to ask?

by Andrew Rudolph on September 17, 2010
Andrew Rudolph

Hi Sue, whilst I'm a big supporter of Decriminalisation,  as a long time Hunters Corner resident, all the legislation has done is to create an unhealthy, intimidating atmosphere on the Gt. South Rd where as I grown man, I don't want to walk down the main street at night. Which respectable person would?

If 24 hour public toilets were installed (as you suggested) they would be used as 'private rooms' for the Prostitutes and their Clients. So in effect, nobody would be using them anyway - except for sex and smoking 'P'.

The real question is: Where do we go from here?

If this bill (Regulation of Prostitution in Specified Places) is bad, what's the alternative?

Do nothing?.....

by Sue Bradford on September 20, 2010
Sue Bradford

Thanks for the feedback.  I'll make just a quick response to Andrew's question: if I was on the council and concerned at the situation at Hunters Corner, I would take the following steps:

* accept that prostitution has been decriminalised & that this is a small red light district - if you move the sex workers out, you're simply moving the accompanying issues somewhere else, not solving them.

* examine what exactly the problems are that concern people

* go through the problems one by one and work on practical solutions to them - eg littering /provide more frequent cleaning; - lack of public toilets / provide some;  - drunk people causing a nuisance/ more policing, Maori wardens, lobby to change alcohol laws;  - some underage prostitutes, or other health and safety issues for sex workers  / support community groups who provide assistance and advice for prostitutes.

I fail to understand why some MPs believe the solution to any of these problems lies in arresting sex workers, convicting them, and fining them up to $2000.  What's needed are intelligent, developmental solutions by local people for the local situation, and an acceptance that the law has changed - and that it's not realistic or desirable to have one criminal law for Manukau and a different one for the rest of the country.




by Frog on September 21, 2010

Kia ora koutou. Apologies for my late arrival into this thread. I wanted to post a short response on behalf of the Green MPs, but then I couldn't remember how to log in. But with that sorted, thanks Sue and others for your comments.

The entire Green Party caucus supports the aims of the Prostitution Reform Act which safeguards sex workers’ rights, protects them from exploitation, and promotes public health.

The majority of the caucus felt that this bill was inconsistent with this position and voted against it at first reading.

But the caucus also acknowledged that there is a real issue of concern in Manukau, and that local communities are often best placed to understand and make decisions about local issues. The Greens are also committed to the principle of local decision-making.

Some of the caucus felt that the complex issues involved with this bill, and the principle of local decision-making, warranted a debate at select committee, and voted to support it this far. This doesn't mean that they support everything in the bill or that they'll necessarily support it beyond the select committee stage.



by Andrew Rudolph on September 27, 2010
Andrew Rudolph

Hi Sue, Just wanted to say 'Thanks' for your reply. Much there to think on.


by danniel on January 29, 2013

I couldn't agree more, I support prostitution legalization because I am aware it can consistently reduce some risks of different natures in our society. I'd prefer people to watch live sex couples webcam and release their sexual energy this way instead of hunting the streets and taking on victims. Prostitution seems to also be a solution to that.

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