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Land (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill 2021

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Tuesday, 12 October 2021

Tags: Legislation, Crown Land

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Speaker, I rise on behalf of the Greens to indicate that we had a pretty thorough briefing. Thank you to the departmental and ministerial officers who provided that briefing to us.

We are comfortable with this legislation. When I first looked at it and realised it was amending 14 land related statutes, my spider senses went off a bit and I thought I had better have a really good look at this legislation. There are a number of significant changes that improve the operability, particularly of the Land Titles Act, but in the main I think this amendment bill is about modernising legislation, modernising some of those processes, taking arcane provisions out of those statutes, and making sure that there is gender-neutral language to the greatest extent possible in land related legislation.

Some of the amendments about electronic conveyancing and electronic storage of land titles raise some questions which, for the purposes of clarity, would be good to have the minister's views on. We all understand that we are no longer living in a world where paper is the dominant medium for recording information and that the storage of paper records can become problematic. When you are talking about a document as significant to an individual or a family's life as a land title, there needs to be real rigour about any move towards a more electronic system. We touched on this in the briefing. I know there is a real awareness of the need for strong systems and for there to be rigour around how information is stored and accessed and potentially amended.

We understand, minister, that there is a move nationally towards electronic conveyancing, and electronic storage of land titles. Is the minister able to give us any information on the time frame for those changes? My understanding from the briefing is that states and territories are all at different stages of that process and that to some extent - and this is a tendency of particularly conservative governments, I have to say - there has been an outsourcing of data storage capacity potentially. I cannot remember which jurisdiction it was but private companies are holding titles so they become the electronic storage font for title storage.

Is the minister able, even though we have not got to that point yet, to help the House understand the connection between the Land Titles Office, the role of the Valuer General and how it would work that you would have an electronic system that stored certificates of title and how you could make sure that the public interest was protected but also people's personal property rights protected in that process? Who would actually hold the titles in a truly reformed electronic system and what kind of thinking is taking place now about IT protections in the event of a system breakdown or a hack?

I note that the legislation amends the compulsory acquisition legislation. I know Ms White touched on this briefly but there has to be a better way of government giving effect to its programs and policies that does not so apparently thoroughly alienate important groups of people, important communities.

The community at Leith is one example, which we went to talk to earlier this year. The bewilderment about government plans and processes, and the lack of openness, the awareness that people who have lived in an area or had this home for many years can just have it taken away from them, or a large chunk of their land taken away from them, is really stressful.

I understand that you need the capacity in the Land Acquisitions Act to move so you can invest in infrastructure and modernise, but it can be really heavy handed and we have seen that at Leith. We have seen that in the north west along the intended site of the UPC transmission line, where notices from a private company went to landowners informing them that their land would be acquired. We have the situation here on the Southern Outlet where those families in Dynnyrne suddenly woke up one day to a private consultant again communicating with them that their homes, or a substantial part of their property will be compulsorily acquired in order to build a fifth lane on the Southern Outlet.

It is obviously distressing to those communities but it is also really rude on the part of government to give effect to your infrastructure program in such a ham fisted way.

The fact is that the Land Acquisitions Act gives no landowner any real rights in the event that the government decides that they are going to compulsorily acquire their land. Yes, it does provide for compensation, as it should, but all rights to prevent something in the event of compulsory acquisition simply do not exist.

Perhaps the minister could address some of those concerns, which come up all the time. Minister, I am sure you have spoken to constituents who are having their property or part of their property compulsorily acquired and it creates this lack of trust and resentment in government because of the way it is done. I put that on the record.

The amendment that provides for a person who has had an acquisition notice served on them to have a longer period of time in which to seek compensation is a very good amendment and well thought through.

Regarding the amendments to the Wellington Park Act, I have had a look at the principal act, minister, and this series of amendments contained in one clause. I do not think there is anything else happening here, given the Government you are part of has been so ardently backing the cable car proposed for the privatised pinnacle of kunanyi. Perhaps you could provide some real assurance about why the words 'if any' are put after 'title' or 'grant' or 'dealing' in the Wellington Park Act. It looks like it is just to make it more accurate, because in some instances there will not be a grant or a dealing.

Finally, I note that the Nature Conservation Act is being amended to make it less prescriptive in terms of wildlife regulations attached to the act as a schedule. Obviously, we are also very wary when we see the Nature Conservation Act come before the parliament because it has been for a positive purpose, certainly in my time in parliament. My understanding is that this is in order to make wildlife regulations, which are renewed every 10 years, more easily slotted into the back of the Nature Conservation Act, if you like, as a schedule because they will not necessarily have a specific name and date to them. Perhaps the minister could provide a bit of extra reassurance on that.

That is about it, really. I appreciate that the Government is moving on gendered language in legislation. This is a pretty good tidy-up act, Mr Deputy Speaker, and we certainly will not be opposing it.