Madam is not for changing Canberra's prostitution laws
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Madam is not for changing Canberra's prostitution laws

High demand in Canberra's ''fly-in fly-out'' sex industry proves the territory's prostitution laws should not be tampered with.

That is the message from Australia's most experienced brothel madam, Mary-Anne Kenworthy, who will open a new branch of her popular Langtrees brothel next week in Mitchell.

Mary-Anne Kenworthy, sitting in the Arabian Nights room at Langtrees, is Australia's most experienced brothel madam.

Mary-Anne Kenworthy, sitting in the Arabian Nights room at Langtrees, is Australia's most experienced brothel madam.Credit:Rohan Thomson

Ms Kenworthy said a study tour of the sex industries in France, Sweden and South Korea by Canberra Liberals Giulia Jones and Vicki Dunne was misguided.

''These ladies are chasing a dead cat up a dead tree,'' she said.

The 30-year industry veteran praised the ACT's laws on prostitution but called for better enforcement of health and safety regulations and further assistance for women to leave sex work.

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She said demand continued to outstrip supply in the local sex industry, which resulted in as many as 20 women flying to Canberra each week to provide sexual services.

''When you decriminalise something, you say it was never illegal,'' she said. ''You can't then turn around and say we'll make paying for sex illegal. They are wasting taxpayers' money with no understanding of the sex industry.''

The new Mitchell brothel will feature seven luxury theme rooms, including Arabian Nights and Fantasia decor, as well as a cocktail bar and ''AAA service''. There will be six women available on weeknights and as many as 12 at the weekend.

''I work in Perth with probably about 65 ladies a week, and 80 per cent of those are fly-in, fly-out,'' Ms Kenworthy said. ''We'll have a lot of our Perth clientele who come to Canberra to work with government come and see us. I understand business is a lot more quiet when Parliament is not sitting.''

Promising a complete guide to the sex industry, Ms Kenworthy called on parliamentarians to visit local brothels before travelling to Europe or Asia.

Australian National University law lecturer Wayne Morgan said so-called Nordic model laws have not improved conditions for sex workers.

''Certainly having a model where the clients are criminalised is better than where the sex workers are criminalised themselves,'' he said. ''However, what the focus of all law reform in this area should really be is on the welfare of sex workers.

''If anything, the Nordic laws impact negatively on the welfare of sex workers.''

Mr Morgan said aspects of sex work are driven underground, meaning proper regulation and protections are impossible.

''It also means if a sex worker is actually harmed by a client or experiences violence from a client, they are reluctant to go to police.''

Tom McIlroy is a political reporter for the Financial Review in the federal press gallery at Parliament House.