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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 06 Hansard (Thursday, 7 June 2018) . . Page.. 2168 ..

The bill also removes discriminatory provisions from the act by repealing sections 24 and 25. These sections make it an offence for a sex worker or a client to provide or receive commercial sexual services if they are infected with a sexually transmissible infection, or STI. These offences are discriminatory because they hold sex workers and clients infected with STIs to a higher public health standard than the general population who are simply required to take reasonable precaution not to transmit a notifiable infection under the Public Health Regulation 2000. This is despite the fact that sex workers represent a low-risk demographic for STI transmission due to a high rate of prophylactic use. That use is supported by the requirement under section 27 of the act to use prophylactics when providing certain kinds of commercial sexual services.

The bill will remove these discriminatory provisions and instead insert a cross-reference to the Public Health Regulation to make it clear that the standard of taking reasonable precautions that applies to the general community also applies equally to sex workers. This amendment means that sex workers and their clients who have STIs will be treated the same as other members of the community with STIs, by focusing the offence on the failure to take reasonable precautions to prevent the transmission of infection rather than on providing or receiving commercial sexual services when infected with a transmissible infection.

The bill also improves the work health and safety of sex workers by requiring operators of brothels and escort agencies to provide appropriate personal protective and safety equipment, including prophylactics, to sex workers free of charge. This amendment is drafted so that it mirrors the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 and makes it clear that sex workers have the same right to be safe at work as workers in other industries. The amendments include a list of examples of personal protective and safety equipment that is non-exhaustive in order to capture the wide variety of safety requirements that exist under a diverse range of sex work.

This bill also makes a number of minor and consequential amendments to ensure consistency across the statute book. The bill redrafts sections 12, 13 and 14 without changing the substance to ensure consistency with the Criminal Code and changes the term “authorised nurse practitioner” to “nurse practitioner” for consistency with the Legislation Act 2001.

The bill also makes amendments to a range of legislation to ensure that pejorative terminology is removed. Finally, the bill repeals the Prostitution Regulation 1993 and replaces it with a new Sex Work Regulation 2018, which is otherwise identical.

The government recognises that sex work is a valid occupational choice and that sex workers are entitled to the same protection of their health and safety, rights and freedom from discrimination as workers in any other profession. The government is committed to a progressive and socially responsible approach to the commercial sex industry. These amendments update the act by better balancing legalisation with effective regulation to protect the rights of sex workers, their clients and the broader community. I commend this bill to the Assembly.

Debate (on motion by Ms Lawder) adjourned to the next sitting.

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