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The Queensland Government is set to make an official bid for a stake in Virgin Airlines. A former Chief Minister once suggested the apparent proliferation of massage parlours in Darwin's CBD was lowering the tone of the city. Terry Mills, the member for the Palmerston electorate of Blain, said he was surprised by how many parlours were filling gaps left behind by other businesses. Whether you agree with his concerns or not, behind the neon lights a murky and complex industry lies.
This investigation is part of Curious Darwin, our series where you ask us the questions, vote for your favourite, and we investigate. City Walker explained in an email they do not want to be identified because of the "illegal nature of the subject", as they put it, but said they had contacted multiple politicians with this concern and had gotten no reply. In February, they sent a text message to ABC Radio Darwin as presenter Adam Steer was interviewing Chief Minister Michael Gunner: "CM when you were on local radio on 16 Nov last year you said you were looking at reforms to give more protection to sex workers," the message read.
City Walker alleged the parlours had free reign and that they laundered money, evaded tax, and had lax health standards, among other accusations. Of course, this question assumes massage parlours do the wrong thing. So, is this an issue for police? NT Police said it periodically received information that sex services were being offered at massage parlours. Police continue to investigate and patrol massage parlours, including conducting ongoing liaison with parlour managers. One massage parlour in Darwin's CBD said initially it had to place a sign at the window front explaining it offered non-erotic massages only.
The owner said they could probably remove the sign, although some customers still asked for more than just a massage. The owner said business wasn't that great in Darwin because of the presence of illegal massage parlours. Now, they said, they don't get anywhere near as many of those type of customers interstate. City Walker also asked whether local newspapers were complicit in this issue by publishing ads in the classifieds section of the NT News.
Some numbers weren't connected, and for the ones that did, we explained who we were and what we were investigating, and offered them the chance to speak anonymously. Some didn't understand the query because they said English wasn't their first language, while others didn't want to understand, before hanging up the phone. So, no comment. One only had to look online for more options and, indeed, there was less subtlety. Sex work or providing prostitution services isn't illegal in the NT, however, it is an offence to keep or manage a brothel.