A crackdown on brothel owners using under-age sex workers has been recommended by the Assembly Committee reviewing the territory's prostitution laws.
The recommendation was prompted by the tragic death of a 17-year-old girl from a drug overdose in a Fyshwick brothel in 2008.
The multi-party committee reviewing the 1992 Prostitution Act has also recommended that strict rules governing sex for sale in Canberra's suburbs should be relaxed.
Presently one sex worker is allowed to operate from premises in a residential suburb and the committee believes it should be two.
The recommendations, tabled in the Legislative Assembly yesterday, suggest employment of sex workers under the age of 18 should become an absolute liability offence, meaning brothel owners would be allowed no defence if they are found to have underage sex workers on their premises.
The recommendation comes 2½ years after The Canberra Times revealed the death of 17-year-old Janine Cameron from a drug overdose at a Fyshwick brothel in 2008.
Subsequent revelations found that workplace inspections had not been conducted at ACT brothels for more than four years.
According to the report, concerns raised as a result of Ms Cameron's death, prompted an inquiry into the ACT's sex laws.
The Committee found that making employment of underage workers an absolute liability offence was ''the best way to deter offences''.
If the recommendation was to be implemented the use of fake identification by an underage prostitute would not exonerate the brothel owner who hired them.
The report contains another 15 recommendations to overhaul the territory's ''regulated'' sex industry including more resources for police to manage organised crime in the sex industry, services to assist sex workers trying to leave the industry, and greater vigilance against sex trafficking.
Scarlet Alliance, the representative body for Australian sex workers, welcomed the committee's findings yesterday and chief Janelle Fawkes called on the ACT government to act quickly on the recommendations. ''The report rightly recognises the commitment by sex workers and the sex industry to good occupational health and safety standards,'' Ms Fawkes said.
''Should the government continue to work in partnership with sex workers when developing legislation, these recommendations will support strong improvements to the current laws.''
Liberal MLA Vicki Dunne, the chair of the Justice and Community Safety standing committee, said greater protections for young people and a more concentrated focus on sex trafficking were positive changes recommended by the report.
However, Mrs Dunne disagreed with a number of the recommendations.''The majority of the committee has recommended that more than one sole operator can operate in one place and that sole operators don't need to be registered and I believe that is a problem for the community and will actually create a larger illegal industry in the ACT,'' Mrs Dunne said.