ACT Liberal Assembly members Giulia Jones and Vicki Dunne have pushed for more "proactive" police surveillance of illegal prostitution and for scrutiny of businesses advertising sex services.
Ms Jones told a budget estimates hearing on Wednesday that she was told "very clearly" in a June 10 meeting with ACT Policing, a unit of the AFP, "that criminality was not actively sought out by the police in this area", referring to prostitution, and that if this was the case it would be "disappointing".
Ms Jones then pressed Workplace Safety and Industrial Relations Minister Simon Corbell to follow up with "specific comment on why the AFP does not at least explore the adult ads for evidence of criminality".
Ms Dunne said she was also in the room at the time and that the AFP specifically told Ms Jones they "did not for instance regularly check adult ads in The Canberra Times for evidence of people who may be underage or illegally in the industry".
An ACT Policing spokesman responded that intelligence gathering is "ongoing" and "it is incorrect to ascertain from that briefing that ACT Policing does not maintain ongoing intelligence gathering tasks in relation to criminality in the ACT sex industry".
The spokesman said that while police had limited power to enter brothels under the Prostitution Act, "ACT Policing attends joint site inspections to brothels with the Office of Regulatory Services and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection".
Mr Corbell also rejected the claims and said the members were not accurately representing the briefing by ACT Policing.
"They have said very clearly that they undertake ongoing assessments of possible criminality across a whole range of sectors in the ACT, including this one," the minister said.
He said he, too, had been briefed by ACT Policing on the June 10 meeting and "it would be wrong to suggest the AFP don't look at or consider issues in this industry unless they receive a tip off".
The questions at the hearing follow a $35,000 study tour by Ms Dunne and Ms Jones of prostitution laws in France, Sweden and South Korea this year. After the tour the members started to push for prostitution exit programs and more co-operation with federal agencies on the trafficking of women in Australia.
Ms Jones said she wanted to clarify that she was "not suggesting [ACT Policing] never do proactive work in the ACT to find criminality across the board".