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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 10 Hansard (29 August) . . Page.. 3001 ..

Prostitution Amendment Bill 2002

Mr Stanhope, pursuant to notice, presented the bill and its explanatory memorandum.

Title read by Clerk.

MR STANHOPE (Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Health, Minister for Community Affairs and Minister for Women) (10.37) I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

Mr Speaker, the Prostitution Amendment Bill 2002 implements recommendations arising from a review undertaken by the Department of Justice and Community Safety into certain aspects of the Prostitution Act 1992.

In 1999, the former Attorney-General, Mr Humphries, requested that a departmental review be undertaken into specific aspects of the Prostitution Act 1992, particularly the public health and regulatory aspects of the act. It was considered that this review was timely, given that the act had been operating for six years. The review encompassed a number of issues which had arisen since the inception of the act, namely, regulatory aspects of the act; provisions relating to sexually transmitted diseases; and confidentiality issues for private workers.

In the course of undertaking the review, the Sex Industry Consultative Group was consulted comprehensively. It is a non-statutory group that was established to provide ministerial advice on various aspects of the sex industry in the ACT. It comprises representatives of the police, the department of health, the AIDS Action Council and the sex industry and was chaired by Ms Phillipa Weeks, a law lecturer from the Australian National University. I would like to take the opportunity to thank the group for its efforts in assisting with the review. The group's collective expertise has made a vital contribution to this bill.

The principal concern that has arisen with the existing legislation is the lack of any power to exclude unsuitable people from the industry. At present, there is nothing in the act to prevent a person who has been convicted of a serious offence, such as child prostitution, from continuing to operate a brothel. The most significant changes that are proposed by the bill will address this concern. The bill proposes the introduction of new offence provisions that will have the effect of excluding persons from the industry who have been convicted of particular disqualifying offences.

The proposed definition of "disqualifying offence" comprises those serious criminal offences, including crimes against the person, particularly those relating to children, and offences relating to drug trafficking and money laundering. In addition, specific offences contained in the Prostitution Act 1992 which are directed at the actions of brothel and escort agency operators are included in the definition. The operations of the spent convictions legislation have been expressly excluded for the purpose of the registration of those involved in the prostitution industry. This is analogous to the exclusions which have already been included in section 19 of the Spent Convictions Act 2000, including casino employees and interactive gambling licence holders.

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