Ballina motel in spotlight again
BARELY six months after he was fending off accusations his business was housing illegal prostitutes, Ballina Island Motor Inn owner Matt Laurie is again battling controversy – this time it is the Fair Work Ombudsman that has the business in its sights.
The Ombudsman has launched a prosecution against Matthew Robert Laurie and his company, Ballina Island Resort Pty Ltd – which owns the motor inn – for failing to provide documents to inspectors and for failing to issue pay slips to all employees.
Papers lodged with the Federal Magistrates Court in Sydney allege the company ‘ignored numerous requests’ from investigators trying to audit the company for time-and-wages records and other documents.
Fair Work Ombudsmanexecutive director Michael Campbell said the ombudsman would allege the company either did not have the records or deliberately withheld them.
If found guilty, the company will face fines of up to $33,000 on each of the two charges, while Mr Laurie will face fines of up to $6000 on each charge.
The case will be mentioned in the court on February 19.
The prosecution comes only a few months after Mr Laurie fielded claims by Ballina brothel madam Suzanne Thwaites that he had prostitutes working illegally from his motel.
At the time, Mr Laurie told The Northern Star he had previously called police after discovering prostitutes working from the premises.
“We don’t want them here. It drags down the property and is bad for business,” Mr Laurie said at the time.
“But it’s hard to know how to handle it. What are you supposed to do, knock on a guest’s door and ask ‘are you a prostitute’?”
Ballina Shire Council regulatory services group manager Rod Willis, whose department has been landed with the job of weeding out illegal prostitutes from the shire’s motels, holiday rentals and other premises, said that just about every motel in Ballina had travelling prostitutes stay at them from time to time.
They also used holiday rentals and commercial premises.
When alerted to the presence of prostitutes operating in breach of planning rules, the council contacted the management of the ven-ues, who then generally evicted them.
“On the whole we’ve had a pretty high level of co-operation from property owners,” he said.
“Generally property owners don’t want their premises being run for that purpose – most believe it’s not good for their other guests.”
Mr Willis said there were some premises that ‘seem to come up continuously’ as bases for sex workers, but the Ballina Island Motor Inn wasn’t one of them.