A veteran of the Australian sex industry has accused Liberal MLAs Giulia Jones and Vicki Dunne of using sex workers in the ACT for political advantage and labelled their three-week European study tour a waste of time and taxpayers' money.
Elena Jeffreys has used an opinion piece in Wednesday’s Canberra Times to criticise the pair for failing to speak to any current sex workers during their visits to France, Sweden and South Korea in April and May, and said the industry is not a ''social ill that needs fixing''.
The 39-year-old is a touring sex worker and advocate who visits Canberra during times of high demand.
She is completing a PhD in political science and international studies at the University of Queensland and said Mrs Jones and Mrs Dunne were ignoring a 2010 inquiry into prostitution in the ACT.
Canberra’s sex industry is legal and regulated.
Ms Jeffreys said women in the industry viewed their work as just like any other job.
''Sex work is not a political hobby horse for bored politicians,'' Ms Jeffreys said. ''And sex workers are not Dunne or Jones’ rescue project.
''[Their] disingenuous meddling on the issue demeans parliamentary processes such as formal inquiries – why bother with actual evidence if it is going to be ignored?
''If this is setting a new bar for ACT politics, it is a dangerously low one,'' Ms Jeffreys said.
A report into the tour is expected to be presented to the ACT Legislative Assembly next month.
Sex Worker Outreach Program spokeswoman Lexxie Jury said the ACT should follow decriminalisation reforms in NSW, including not requiring sole operators to register with the government.
''We do need to go one step further but I think when we look at the rest of Australia when it comes to legalisation, we have the best set of rules,'' she said.
''We still have odd rules across the states and territories and nothing is the same in different places.''
Mrs Jones defended the study tour and said she was prepared to meet with Ms Jeffreys to discuss plans for improved exit programs for women seeking to leave the industry.
''In Busan, South Korea, we did go through a red light district but the language difficulties are present. Most of the women there are either Filipino or Russian so they don't speak English necessarily.
''We took advice from women who run the exit program centres about time frames and requirements, as well as things like medical and education options for women who aren't coping and are wanting out.''
Mrs Jones said her current work with Mrs Dunne formed ''the next step'' to the 2010 inquiry report.
''I think it would be healthy if there was a house, a safe house, in the ACT and that's partly what I gained from the trip. How do those facilities work and what are the methods involved?''
She said individualised programs and independence for participants was crucial to the effectiveness of sex industry exit programs.