Queensland Anti-Discrimination Revisions Discriminating?

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By Erik Pineda | November 2, 2012 6:08 PM EST

Queensland motel and hotel operators are now empowered by the state government to deny or evict room occupants they believe are sex workers conducting business within their premises.

Queensland Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie announced on Thursday amendments to the Sunshine State's Anti-Discrimination Act that would allow for accommodation business establishments to restrict prostitution activities as they see fit.

It is understood that the new state regulation is applicable both to registered and illegal sex workers.

Mr Bleijie said in his statement that changes were in light of "a recent Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal decision ruled the owners of a motel in Moranbah had breached the Anti-Discrimination Act by denying a legal sex worker a room."

The new move by the Newman Government is aimed to temporarily change the law "to give businesses certainty in controlling the use of their premises," Mr Bleijie said.

He noted too that that the Moranbah case is under appeal and presumably the outcome of which will impact Queensland's decision to tinker with the discrimination laws.

But Mr Bleijie hastened to explain that the state government merely wishes to push the notion that existing laws were not anti-business and "it is about levelling the playing field so the laws suit the majority not the minority."

"The Newman government supports business owners' ability to make decisions about what does or does not occur on their premises," the Queensland AG was quoted by the Australian Associated Press (AAP) as saying.

The decision, however, was strongly criticised by the Queensland Council for Civil Liberties, which scored the government for introducing legislative changes minus the normal course of first submitting them to consultations.

"To give hotel and motel owners the right to evict sex workers if they are carrying out their employment in a legal fashion opens a whole myriad of problems for other people who carry on their business," Council spokesman Terry O'Gorman told The Brisbane Times on Thursday.

With the way that the Newman Government has acted, it appears equally guilty in trampling over the rights of others while apparently defending the interest of business operations, in this case of motel and hotel owners, Mr O'Gorman said.

"The whole point in having anti-discrimination legislation is to prevent arbitrary discrimination. To change the law to deal with one class of business is in itself discriminatory," he further argued.

In response, the Accommodation Association of Australia (AAA) hailed Queensland's decision as "a very significant outcome for our industry and one that we warmly welcome."

"Operators of accommodation businesses are relieved and pleased about this outcome ... The new laws will assist with ensuring the tourism experience of staying in Queensland is enhanced," AAA chief executive Richard Munro said in statement.

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