The curious case of a sex worker who sued a motel which had banned her from entertaining clients in their rooms piqued my interest this month.
The hooker known as Karlaa took the owners of the Drovers Rest Motel in the mining town of Moranbah to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal and sued them under the Anti-Discrimination Act.
She lost the case last year but won it on appeal earlier this month and is now seeking $30,000 compensation.
The story goes that the Gold Coast prostitute – just one of hundreds descending on booming mining towns across Australia – used the motel 17 times over two years to service clients.
When the motel owners, Evan and Joan Hartley, realised what she was up to, they barred her from the premises.
Which, as a South Coast motelier, seems perfectly reasonable to me. Surely, it is incumbent on us to look after the amenity of our business and the welfare of our guests. After all, they booked into a motel, not a bordello.
And there is a distinction between a quick liaison – which is not uncommon – and multiple partners coming and going.
We have come to recognise the trysters. They arrive early afternoon, register as Mr and Mrs Smith, pay cash and request a discreet room. A few hours later they are gone.
And then there are the occasional call girls. Late one evening we observed a black car pull up outside the motel. A sharply dressed man got out and patrolled the street, before signalling back to the car.
A woman in a tiny, tight outfit and high, high heels emerged, tottered across the car park and disappeared into a room.
The pimp waited. An hour later she returned and they drove away.
Most guests understand that sexual encounters may be part of the motel experience and even double brick walls sometimes fail to muffle the noise.
This particularly irritated an uptight young corporate lass last year. She was not a happy customer when checking in, and was furious when checking out.
“This has to be the worst motel I have ever stayed in,” she railed. “I had poor mobile phone reception, there was no Foxtel, the internet kept dropping out and then the couple next door had sex at three in the morning. I could hear everything. It was disgusting.”
She was shaking with rage. I apologised without really knowing what I could do about the sex part. But I did regard the elderly gent and his wife who booked out soon after with new respect.
However, this is very different to a prostitute setting up shop in a room. Guests don’t expect to have a brothel next door and would have every right to complain about the all-night shenanigans.
Karlaa argued that her use of a bed was no different to someone using the phone or internet for business.
She said: “Not everyone would choose to do the job I do, but it’s not right that they can treat me like a second-class citizen. They wanted me to go away, but I am a tenacious little terrier and I would not give up.”
Queensland’s attorney-general, Jarrod Bleijie, has said he will support an appeal against the Drovers Rest ruling, adding that “the government stands on the side of business owners and supports their ability to make decisions about what does or does not occur on their premises”.
That sounds like common sense will prevail, that the motel industry will get the green light to flash the red light when molls move in.
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