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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 10 Hansard (29 August) . . Page.. 3002 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

The new offences will be supported by an extension to the registration notice requirements so that operators and owners will need to provide information in relation to disqualifying offences and provide evidence of their police records. It is proposed that fingerprint-based criminal record checks should be required because a name-based check will not disclose offences recorded under an alias. Similarly, new operators and owners entering the industry will be required to submit police record checks before they can be registered.

A range of policy approaches to regulating prostitution were considered as part of the review. It was found that the experience in other jurisdictions, such as Victoria and very recently Queensland, indicated that full licensing schemes have not proved effective. The high cost of licensing fees borne by the industry and the high level of regulation associated with licensing have encouraged the growth of an underground industry, operating beyond the reach of the law, including public health provisions.

When the Prostitution Act was introduced in 1992, it was specifically structured so that there is no offence of operating an unregistered brothel, only of failing to give the registrar relevant notices about the operation of the brothel. The aim of this bill is to preserve this very positive aspect of the ACT legislation, while still providing a means of keeping certain criminal elements out of the industry in the ACT. Any sweeping changes to this essential structure, such as the introduction of a licensing scheme, could run the risk of creating a less regulated industry.

The bill also includes some important amendments in relation to sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs. One of the primary objectives of our prostitution legislation is to safeguard public health. In this regard, the act contains a number of provisions regarding STDs, including requiring operators to take all reasonable steps to ensure a sex worker does not provide commercial sexual services when infected with an STD; making it an offence for a sex worker to provide or for a client to receive a commercial sexual service if he or she knows or could reasonably be expected to know that he or she is infected with an STD; and requiring sex workers and clients to use prophylactics and requiring operators to take reasonable steps to ensure that this occurs.

For the purposes of the Prostitution Act, "STD" is defined under the Sexually Transmitted Diseases Act 1956. However, the current definition has not been amended since 1977 and does not cover the full range of STDs currently arising in the community. This bill proposes to update the current definition in line with expert medical policy advice provided by the Chief Health Officer. Provision is also made in the bill to allow new diseases to be added to the definition by way of regulation to facilitate changes to the definition should that need arise. This will allow a timely response to any new developments in relation to sexual health.

Other amendments to the act proposed in the bill concern confidentiality requirements and the register. Presently, the legislation allows some details of private workers to be publicly inspected. It is considered that there is no compelling public interest in private workers details being available for public inspection. Further, the potential for this information to be publicly available may deter private workers from complying with their legal obligations under the act. It is therefore proposed to amend the act so that this

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