Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (12:06): My question is to the Minister for Small Business. Licensed brothels, escort agencies, strip clubs and adult service operators are concerned that because of the nature of their business they will be discriminated against during the reopening of Victorian businesses that has just been announced by the government. Like many other sectors that require close contact, such as beauty salons, tattoo artists or massage therapists, those involved in the sex industry have put together COVID-safe operating plans to ensure that both workers and clients follow health protocols. Given its history, one could argue that the sex industry is in fact positioned much better than other industries to deal with these sorts of health concerns. Minister, will you ensure that the adult industry operators are treated fairly and in no way discriminated against as the state starts to reopen?
Ms PULFORD (Western Victoria—Minister for Employment, Minister for Innovation, Medical Research and the Digital Economy, Minister for Small Business) (12:07): I thank Ms Patten for her question and her advocacy on behalf of this industry and the people who work in it. I am certainly happy to confirm that as we reopen and find our COVID normal we are not discriminating against this industry, and I really would not want people in this industry to feel that they were being discriminated against. All of the decisions are based on advice from our public health team. There are a great many workplaces and businesses that received the news that they were looking for yesterday in terms of opening. Beauty has close contact—that is relevant to your point—and retail and hospitality and others have had the opportunity to open earlier, and then there are others again that are still waiting for the final step in the road map and then the COVID-safe step.
I think around the time that Melbourne takes the next step we will be in a position to articulate what the final step will look like and when it will occur. In the meeting I had last night with small business organisations and operators one of the questions was, ‘When can people go back to their offices?’, for instance. There are some types of work that we are just not quite ready to have reopened yet, but I am incredibly conscious that, whilst that is a smaller group, with the passage of time their needs and their
position become increasingly acute, so I certainly would give you that guarantee that this is not a question of discrimination for particular types of work. I thank you for asking the question.
Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (12:09): Thank you, Minister, for that assurance. Certainly the industry quite often do feel that they are left to the bottom of the list and in fact discriminated against. In that vein, several adult industry operators have come to me with concerns that they are not only having trouble getting clarity on safe opening processes but also having difficulty accessing small business grants. Now, I have certainly referred these concerns to Minister Pakula’s office, but as small business minister I am wondering if you could follow through with Minister Pakula on these adult industry organisations who are having a difficult time accessing these government funds.
Ms PULFORD (Western Victoria—Minister for Employment, Minister for Innovation, Medical Research and the Digital Economy, Minister for Small Business) (12:10): I thank Ms Patten for her further question. For industries that continue to be in the category of restricted or heavily restricted, of which there are a number, including the adult industry, their situation remains very challenging, and we recognise that. Yes, I am happy to work with Minister Pakula to ensure that between the various funds and supports that he administers and the ones that I do people in the adult industry are provided with support to avail themselves of the options that exist and the supports that exist