Sex industry study trip puts focus on people trafficking
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Sex industry study trip puts focus on people trafficking

A controversial political study tour to consider prostitution laws in France, Sweden and South Korea won't result in efforts to bring about immediate changes to law or social programs in the ACT.

Opposition members Giulia Jones and Vicki Dunne took part in a three-week trip in April and May at a cost of $36,800, meeting more than two dozen experts, policymakers and non-profit organisations to learn about the Nordic Model laws, which make it illegal to pay for sex, rather than working in the sex industry.

The study tour also considered responses to human trafficking and exit programs for women wishing to leave the sex industry.

In a report presented to the ACT Legislative Assembly last week, both discuss how efforts to stop people trafficking are needed in Australia.

Mrs Jones has pledged to work with charities and religious organisations providing exit care, and calls for a serious and mature discussion about the protection of vulnerable women and girls in the sex industry.

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After returning, she said new co-operation with federal agencies was needed to stop the trafficking of women, including into legal brothels in Canberra.

Prostitution is legal and regulated in the ACT, both for those who seek to pay for sex and those who sell it.

"I take very seriously my responsibilities to the Australian Capital Territory and to the investment that has been made in this study trip," Mrs Jones said.

"I am not suggesting that any of the concepts, programs or legislative responses I saw while overseas are directly applicable or appropriate for the ACT. There are many differences between our societies, and we are at a different stage in our discussions and understanding of the realities involved in this area."

The report said Sweden and South Korea had used proactive policing to find women who had been trafficked and used a "wrap-around of social services" for women working in the sex industry. Mrs Jones praised housing and income assistance, medical services, education and other programs.

Mrs Jones's seven-page report includes a detailed list of meetings and visits to organisations in the three countries, as well as a summary of her research.

Her adviser, Danielle Young, and Mrs Dunne's husband also joined the tour.

Weeks after the trip was announced, the ACT Remuneration Tribunal moved to abolish taxpayer-funded overseas study and spousal travel for all members of the Legislative Assembly.

Mrs Dunne, the speaker of the Legislative Assembly, travelled to London on April 28 for a meeting of the executive of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.

She used her report to describe an in-depth study of how Swedish laws could be applied to the ACT as "unfinished business" from her 2012 report into the operation of the territory's prostitution laws.

Mrs Dunne said the division of responsibility for laws on trafficking and prostitution in Australia could make legal responses more difficult.

"This division of responsibility could militate against a co-ordinated approach, especially when it comes to trafficking," she said.

"While it is generally believed that Australia is in many ways protected from trafficking on a very large scale by factors such as isolation and secure borders, it has long been recognised as a destination country for trafficked persons.

"If there are concerted and effective efforts in Europe to combat trafficking then Australia could become more vulnerable to trafficking and all the associated organised crime."

West Australian Liberal MP Peter Abetz and Victorian Labor MP Christine Campbell also took part in the study tour.

Before the tour, Mrs Jones said a change in Canberra's laws would require support from both sides of politics.

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