Land Use Sell-Off Treachery

Updated 23/05/2017

Treasury has convinced the State Government to examine options to commercialise Victoria's Land Registry function affecting Land Use Victoria

Our 150-year-old registry, based on the Torrens title system, keeps the sensitive details of who owns what land in Victoria and is the envy of the world.

Vic Treasury have decided to follow the disastrous decisions made already by NSW and South Australia to sell off their Titles Offices and hammer home owners with the imposition of GST and additional insurance costs as Title integrity comes under question if sold into private hands.

Let your local state MP know that your personal data and your land title are too important to sell off to privateers and costs will rise and it will cost them your vote.

Emeritus Professor Ian Williamson, a land administration expert at the University of Melbourne, said he was not aware of one case where the privatisation of a land registry has been successful.

Professor Williamson said in the US, where title systems have come to rely on insurance rather than government guarantees, it has been a "disaster" from a public policy perspective.  "The integrity of the land title system is at the heart of public confidence in the land market and all the complex commodities that leverage off the market and create wealth in a first world country," he said.

Our database is currently held in safe hands, protected by authorised public servants and many arms of government, committees of Parliament, the law, judiciary, Auditor General, Ombudsman, and IBAC may readily audit or investigate any suspicious behaviour or activity with or without recourse to the courts.

The Canadian experience alone should have set off alarm bells

In Canada, provincial governments are stopping the spread of the privatisation of land registries, with Nova Scotia last April deciding "it was not the best option … a government-led approach offers certainty".

Its land registries in the provinces of Ontario and Manitoba have been outsourced to Toronto-based Teranet Inc, owned by Borealis Infrastructure.

Peter Currie, a director at the Ontario Association of Professional Searchers of Record said the provincial government had lost control of the valuable land titles database.

"It is now extremely expensive to access and our method of access is restricted by a private actor with no concern over public policy issues," he said.

"Teranet has become a multibillion dollar business feeding upon a captive audience. Because Teranet is a monopoly licensed by the government we have no choice but to pay these fees."

After two attempts in two years, the British government ditched its privatisation plans last month, saying its registry "should focus on becoming a more digital data-driven registration business".

Potential for the need for title insurance

Experts have stated in NSW the profit motive will lead to the degradation of the land office, which registers and secures title of more than $1.2 trillion worth of real estate, increasing the risk of errors and fraud which will lead to the need for expensive title insurance.

GST also becomes payable under a privatised arrangement and consumers will have to pay the extra 10 per cent.

NSW applied for a tax office ruling late last year.

Following the tax office ruling, the government decided that the GST must be absorbed in the fees.

NSW Government then had to inform potential buyers that fees must be cut by 10 per cent to account for GST that consumers would need to pay.

That meant that the projected bids were reduced by $200-$250 million for the sale.

What the members are saying

Our members are expressing legitmate concern for their jobs and the quality of the service provided.

No one can understand why the Andrews Labor Government would sell-off a profitable asset.

There are concerns about future employment conditions and superannuation if employees transfer to a private company.

What consumers are saying

Consumer's are worried about surety of title.

Consumers want to understand that what they've got is safe.  The concept of it going out of government hands does not sit right with them.

What the Industry is saying

The Law Council of Australia and Law Society of NSW have urged the NSW government to repeal the legislation, arguing the registry could degrade in the hands of a profit-focused operator, which risks the integrity of a "world class" land titles system that underpins billions of dollars in economic activity and $1.2 trillion dollars' worth of real estate.

NSW story

The NSW government is privatising the 150-year-old registry despite condemnation from peak bodies across the property and legal sectors, including the Real Estate Institute of NSW and the Law Council of Australia.

NSW Government is leasing the title registry for a period of 35 years. 

The proceeds of the sale will go to the infrastructure fund. The money has been earmarked for the rebuilding of stadiums.

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