Liberal MLA, Giulia Jones. Photo: Rohan Thomson
A study tour of countries with tough prostitution laws by Canberra Liberal MLAs will include meetings with police, criminal prosecutors and anti human trafficking organisations.
Planning documents for the two-week trip to France, Sweden and South Korea provided to the ACT Legislative Assembly reveal opposition spokeswoman on women Giulia Jones will leave Canberra accompanied by a member of her staff next month, while Speaker Vicki Dunne will go with her husband.
In her role of Speaker, Mrs Dunne will travel to a three-day meeting of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association's executive in London after meetings in Paris and Stockholm. The taxpayer-funded travel will cost $19,000 for Mrs Jones and her staff member and $16,700 for Mrs Dunne and her husband.
The required proposals for the study tour were submitted to the Speaker's office and Assembly Clerk in December, despite the tour only being announced to the public on March 20, the day of a forum hosted by the two MLAs for supporters.
Mrs Jones, a conservative Catholic and former staffer to Prime Minister Tony Abbott, told the event she considered prostitution law reform a feminist issue. She said the so-called Nordic model correctly targeted men who pay for sex and that the ACT could learn from programs that advocate for women to leave the sex industry overseas.
Critics of the tour say it could come before renewed attempts to outlaw prostitution in the territory, where the industry is legal and regulated for individuals who sell or buy sexual services.
Party sources said Mrs Dunne and Mrs Jones would like to see prostitution criminalised in Canberra.
This month, Mrs Jones said she hoped the tour would ''start a conversation'' about the sex industry.
The group, including West Australian Liberal MP Peter Abetz and Victorian Labor MP Christine Campbell, will look at laws making it illegal to pay for sex, rather than making it illegal to work in the sex industry. Individuals and representatives of non-profit organisations have also been invited to take part in the study tour.
The proposed itinerary includes meetings with French officials from the ministries of social affairs, health and gender equality.
After a three-day Easter holiday, members of the group will meet with the Swedish ambassador-at-large on human trafficking, Hans Lundborg, and the Stockholm city police prostitution group. In South Korea, they will meet academics from a Methodist women's university and representatives of the Human Rights Commission.
Ms Jones said a focus would be on ''exit programs'' to help women who want to leave the sex industry.