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TheStreet Open House

Clash Over Sex Worker Rights In Rural Australia

Some say that a more open sex industry and even a legal brothel would be good for Moranbah.

Real estate agent Marie Plahn sees a brothel as a better option than miners potentially spreading disease or impregnating women they meet in bars. "Paying for sex is cheaper than child support if it resulted in that," she said.

But Roger Ferguson, a former deputy mayor and a motel owner also sued by Karlaa, said the Moranbah council would probably reject a brothel.

Miners often drive 190 kilometers to the nearest brothel in the port city of Mackay, a regional support center for mining.

Club 7 sits discretely on the fringe of an industrial estate on a cul-de-sac called Enterprise Street. Nearby, boilermakers weld day and night in aircraft hangar-sized workshops, repairing the giant dragline buckets that excavate coal-bearing earth, 45 cubic meters (1,600 cubic feet) at a time.

It was one of Queensland's original legal brothels, built 12 years ago as the state was relaxing prostitution laws.

Manager Warwick Bumstead said all but one of the 60 sex workers are FIFO, working 4- to 10-day stints before flying home to distant cities. He said a typical "mattress actress" at his brothel makes between AU$5,000 and AU$9,000 a week.

A Club 7 worker, a New Zealander in her late 20s, said she is thinking of branching out to some of the smaller mining towns such as Moranbah, where she has heard she can make more money working on her own.

It may no longer be as lucrative as she thinks. Karlaa said the money is not as good or consistent as it was when she started coming to mining towns five years ago. It's not the new law, she said, but the economy: Hundreds of miners have been laid off as falling coal prices take some of the sheen off Australia's mining boom.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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