In March 2014 it was announced by federal Justice Minister, Michael Keenan that funding has been allocated to detect and prevent human trafficking and slavery. (http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/antislavery-organisations-receive-144m-funding-boost-20140325-35eug.html)

The recipients of this funding will be Anti-Slavery Australia, Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans (ACRATH), Project Respect and the Scarlet Alliance. These organisations will each receive $360 000 over the next three years.

The Nordic Model Australia Coalition ‘NORMAC’, has written to Minister Keenan calling on him to cut funding to the Scarlet Alliance and redirect it to one of the other organisations who were intended to be recipients. 

Spokesperson for NORMAC, Matthew Holloway said, “Project Respect is better situated to utilise additional funding as they do a lot of on-the-ground work assisting and supporting people unwillingly trapped in prostitution towards meaningful careers and employment outside the sex industry.”

“Whilst we fully support the intent of this funding, NORMAC is concerned that tax payer dollars are going to an organisation that promotes an effectively unregulated industry, with the only constraints on its operation being the planning approvals that apply to any business.”
A report in the Age on the funding plan states that in the past decade, the Australian Federal Police has investigated more than 400 cases of alleged human trafficking and slavery in Australia, with 228 victims identified. (http://www.theage.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/antislavery-organisations-receive-144m-funding-boost-20140325-35eug.html)

As an organisation, the Scarlet Alliance is clearly focused on lobbying for liberalised sex laws, rather than recognising legitimate cases of human trafficking.  Their estimate of the number of trafficked individuals is alarmingly low.

Dr Mary Louise Sullivan PhD, an author and lecturer in public policy, has the following to say about the Scarlet Alliance in her article ‘Legalised prostitution – a failed experiment’:

“The Scarlet Alliance presents itself as the peak ‘sex worker’ association in Australia and is a major defender of the pro-prostitution position. Indeed the Association’s membership requires that those who join must agree to its objectives. Members must acknowledge that ‘sex work is a legitimate occupation’. Moreover they must be ‘actively promoting the right to work… including street, brothel, and escort, private and opportunistic work’. The Scarlet Alliance undisputedly opposes ‘the development of exit strategies and programs for women who wish to leave the sex industry, particularly trafficked women.” (http://www.spinifexpress.com.au/Blog/display/id=126/)

The Scarlet Alliance is a member of the global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP). The NSWP recently released a briefing paper, ‘Sex Work is not trafficking.’ This paper has a specific section titled, ‘Fighting anti-trafficking groups’ and states the following:

Sex worker organisations have to spend valuable resources, including time, defending their work and challenging the anti-trafficking framework.These are resources that could be much better spent on advocating for the human rights of sex workers and providing crucial services for sex workers.” (http://www.nswp.org/sites/nswp.org/files/SW%20is%20Not%20Trafficking.pdf)

The 2004 report from the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the Australian Crime Commission – ‘Inquiry into the trafficking of women for sexual servitude’ indicated it is generally accepted that approximately 300 women are trafficked into Australia each year for sex work whereas the Scarlet Alliance estimates only a low number of 10 trafficked women.

The Hon Mr Duncan Kerr observed that contract women who have been trafficked into Australia represent a continuum – from those who enter with full knowledge and consent; to those who enter with consent but are deceived as to conditions; to those who enter Australia completely deceived as to their work in the sex industry. (http://www.aph.gov.au/binaries/senate/committee/acc_ctte/completed_inquiries/2002-04/sexual_servitude/report/report.pdf)

This wide-ranging definition shows why the Scarlet Alliance estimates are so low.

Project Respect, along with the Australian Chapter of the International Commission of Jurists, in supporting the UN definition of trafficked women, recognises the vulnerability of women and girls in developing countries to offers of employment in rich countries like Australia. This means that agreements to procure their services in the entertainment or sex industry can seldom be considered as agreements entered into by equals. Rather, they are frequently the result of coercion, deception, or even sheer desperation.

This internationalist view is disputed by the Scarlet Alliance. Their spokesperson, Ms Julie Futol - international sex worker liaison spokesperson for the Scarlet Alliance - argued that in her experience the contract women should be viewed as “transnational citizens in a world that is particularly globalised, and that ‘it fascinates me how they are construed as victims.”

The Scarlet Alliance advocates for the provision of sex work visas, claiming that migrant sex workers would thereby be less susceptible to entering into verbal ‘debt bondage’ contracts as an incentive to obtain passage to, and work within, Australia. (http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-11-18/industry-calls-for-migrant-sex-worker-visas/3680954)

It is of concern that the Scarlet Alliance’s response fails to recognise that a number of people, specifically women, are trafficked into Australia under the false pretense of being offered legitimate work and instead become sexual slaves.

The promotion of sex work visas is also actively supported by sex industry operators through organisations such as the Eros Foundation, a so-called ‘peak body’ for sex industry operators, as well as the Australian Sex Party (ASP), a political organisation very closely associated with the Eros Foundation.

It is NORMAC’S belief that this type of policy is not aimed at protecting those involved in prostitution. Rather, it could create a situation that directly benefits those seeking to profit from people involved in prostitution, and potentially re-classify work in the sex industry alongside other low wage industries in Australia, with a high representation of migrant workers.

Mary Louise Sullivan supports this position, and has stated: “Scarlet Alliance’s platform parallels sex business interests and buyers in its push to have prostitution part of the mainstream economy. It is also in line with Australian governments’ legislative prostitution regimes through which governments benefit through licensing, taxation and prostitution tourism. Perhaps not surprisingly, since 2004, the Scarlet Alliance has received ongoing government funding. A spotlight on the Australian experience, however, demonstrates that legitimising prostitution as work exacerbates the harms of prostitution, and produces further harms of its own making.” (http://www.spinifexpress.com.au/Blog/display/id=126/)

On this basis it would be irresponsible for the new Liberal government to continue providing funding to the Scarlet Alliance for the purposes of preventing human trafficking when the organisation lacks the ability to impartially represent trafficked people and those in sexual slavery.

“The Scarlet Alliance’s core beliefs and ideology seem deeply opposed to recognising the harm caused by prostitution to those involved in the sex industry. NORMAC believes this makes their organisation unfit to receive taxpayer funding when it would be more effectively used by other organisations who have a proven track record.” said Matthew Holloway.
NORMAC is Australia’s leading secular and inclusive organisation that campaigns for a Human Rights based approach to prostitution and the introduction of NORDIC model laws in Australia.

http://www.normac.org.au