Sex workers under scrutiny
DESPITE assurances by the Ballina Shire Council that it shut down illegal prostitution, sex workers continue to ply their trade from some of the town's motels.
The council's development services manager, Andrew Smith, yesterday confirmed that council was investigating four complaints of prostitutes illegally working out of motel rooms in the last week.
However, it wasn't until The Northern Star contacted one of the motels – the Ballina Motel – for comment that a female ‘guest' was asked to leave.
Earlier this week, Anne Smith, owner of another motel, the Sundowner, asked one of her guests to leave after it became apparent she was working illegally out of the room.
“It's really hard and it puts us in a difficult position,” she said.
“They come quite often, but luckily sometimes you can pick them.”
Andrew Smith said it was against council regulations for prostitutes to work out of hotel rooms. However, he said the council didn't have the necessary resources to police the breaches before the sex worker lefts.
Suzanne Thwaites, who owns and operates the legally-registered Ballina Exclusive Company brothel, said the council had been aware of the problem for years, but had not done anything about it, despite assurances last June it would ‘vigorouslyinvestigate complaints'.
The assurance came after the council appointed a former Federal Police officer as a compliance director.
“Why can't they investigate these complaints? I have a list of names, motels and room and phone numbers that go back years. They have a former police officer, why can't he investigate?” Ms Thwaites asked.
Mr Smith said council officers could not simply knock on a motel door and accept information from a complainant without a thorough investigation, adding that complaints by residents have priority over those from businesses.
“That's a cop out,” Ms Thwaites said. “I pay my taxes and if this was happening to another sort of business then council would be all over it.”