Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 12 Hansard (Thursday, 28 October 2010) . . Page.. 5255 ..
amendment today. I believe these are good terms of reference for this important inquiry.
MS BRESNAN (Brindabella) (11.12): I just want to make some brief comments regarding the referral of the Prostitution Act to the justice and community safety committee. The ACT was fortunate to take a progressive approach to the legislation and regulation of the sex industry early in the days of self-government. For nearly 20 years we have been operating in an environment where the government recognises that the most appropriate approach to the sex industry is to license brothels rather than to attempt to pursue sex workers in the courts. This has allowed the majority of sex work conducted in the ACT to operate within the legal system and allows sex workers to access protections without fear of reprisal.
The ACT Greens support investigating whether the Prostitution Act needs updating and welcomes a committee inquiry into the best way of doing so, as this will enable a collaborative, evidence-based approach to updating the laws to reflect current best practice. However, we want to see the continuation of the original intent of the act—that is, to provide a safe and regulated prostitution industry in the ACT.
Sex worker trafficking and child prostitution are abhorrent acts and are rightly recognised in our legislation as serious crimes. It is entirely appropriate that, in modernising the Prostitution Act, we examine the possibility of regulatory changes to improve our ability to prevent these crimes. We should not assume that the sex industry in the ACT is automatically involved in serious or organised crime. Sex workers are legitimate workers and, in the ACT, brothel owners are largely regular business people.
The health, safety and wellbeing of sex workers should also be a primary consideration when considering any reforms. Promoting the wellbeing of sex workers requires more than just health and safety regulations. The manner in which laws are implemented is also important, as invasive enforcement has the potential to damage the ability for community health workers to be trusted by sex workers and provide the necessary services that promote sex workers’ wellbeing through drug and alcohol, HIV/AIDS and STI programs.
Consideration must also be given to those sex workers who have come from overseas, and how they can be educated about the rights they have as workers here in Australia and how education can be given to them prior to their immigration so that they do not enter into unnecessary and unfair bondage arrangements. I would just like to quote from a submission made by the Scarlet Alliance to a federal government investigation into increasing employer penalties for employing illegal migrants:
Sex worker organisations conduct regular outreach, including multicultural outreach to sex workers of Thai, Chinese and Korean background. Our peer educators are migrant sex workers also, and speak the languages of the sex workers they are outreaching to.
The increased penalty places the employer at greater risk if they are found to be supporting the employment of an illegal migrant sex worker.