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Clash Over Sex Worker Rights In Rural Australia

It also remains the kind of place where people make eye contact with passers-by and smile. Where everyone knows everyone else's business â¿¿ and many of their secrets.

So Hartley was suspicious of a regular guest, an attractive woman in her early 40s, at her modest, cement-brick Drover's Rest Motel.

The guest claimed to be an interior designer, but cleaners once counted 10 used condoms inside a tied-up, translucent plastic garbage bag left in her motel room trash can.

The final evidence came in June 2010 when the woman, who worked under the name Karlaa, was given a room with a door that could be seen from reception.

Hartley said the first client, a spotty-faced youth, arrived at 11.45 a.m., half an hour after Karlaa checked in. The men kept arriving all day and into the night.

All were well behaved and well presented â¿¿ no grimy work clothes or coal blackened faces, said Hartley, who added that sex workers reduce the rate of sexual violence and address some of the "disharmony" created when miners are separated from their home communities.

Still, when Karlaa checked out, Hartley told her never to return.

"This world needs the likes of yourself and any other lady or man who does your sort of work," she recalled telling the woman. "The world needs you big time. But I don't want it in my motel."

Karlaa, whose real name has been suppressed by a court order, sued the motel under the Queensland state Anti-Discrimination Act, which bans discrimination against sex workers. She demanded AU$30,000 for stress, anxiety and lost earnings.

She lost before a state tribunal in 2011 but won on appeal last year. That ruling outraged hotel and motel owners, and the Queensland government responded by amending the Anti-Discrimination Act last November to allow owners to refuse accommodation to sex workers if there is reason to believe they plan to work on the premises.

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