iFeminists.com reports that the Queensland state government in Australia has given license to five legal brothels, with three more pending. Licensing fees and operating revenues from these facilities will go to the government. At the same time, the government there has aggressively cracked down on unlicensed brothels (aka “competition”) — 72 unlicensed houses of ill repute have been shut down since January of 2001.
“We take a tough approach to illegal prostitution while at the same time provide strict laws to ensure health and safety standards within the legal industry,” says Queensland Premier Peter Beattie. Of course, the very fact that prostitution (outside these few licensed facilities) is illegal is what creates health and safety problems. If someone sells you a defective car, you can sue to get a new car; but if an illegal brothel operator lies to a client about the health of one of the workers, you can’t get the law involved without incriminating yourself. Similar problems arise in the illegal drug trade, obviously.
I suppose that the Aussies in Queensland are to be applauded for partially legalizing prostitution; but of course they are only doing it because they found a way to make money from it. (Likewise, governments generate billions of dollars from lotteries, but would prosecute the exact same lottery system in the private sector as a “numbers racket.”) The unanswered question remains: why do certain activities carry so much moral baggage that only the government may participate?