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Australia's hotel industry has been rocked by a court's ruling that a prostitute was illegally discriminated against by a motel owner who refused to rent her a room to work from.
The ruling has stunned hotel and motel owners, who thought they had a right to decide what sort of businesses were operating from their premises.
The prostitute, identified only as GK, had taken her discrimination case against the Drovers Rest Motel in the coal mining town of Moranbah to the Queensland state Civil and Administrative Tribunal after management refused to rent her a room.
The 3 1/2-star motel's lawyer, David Edwards, said Wednesday that the court notified him this week that it had upheld the prostitute's claim of discrimination. Edwards confirmed she is seeking damages, reported Wednesday in The Australian newspaper to be 30,000 Australian dollars ($32,000).
The tribunal's reasons for its decision have not yet been made public.
Prostitution is legal in Queensland, and discrimination based on lawful sexual activity is outlawed. Prostitutes are streaming to Outback mining towns such as Moranbah, where they base themselves for short periods to cash in on an Australian mining boom fueled by Chinese demand for raw materials.
Edwards said he was considering appealing the ruling.
Richard Munro, chief executive of the Accommodation Association of Australia, a tourism industry lobby group, said the Queensland and Australian governments should consider changing laws to ensure that hotel and motel owners can decide what sort of businesses are being operated under their roofs.
"It's absolutely illogical,'' Munro said. "If a hairdresser decided to set up shop in the motel and started inviting people in to get their hair cut, I think the motel owner would have the right to say, `Hang on, that's a different business operating out of my business.'''
"If a prostitute decided to start working out of a shopping mall, the owners would have something to say about it. There is some protection for the rights of the motel owner here,'' he said.
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