Posts for October 2017

What has the Government done with our LTO data?

Thursday, October 05, 2017 9:30am

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Under a cloak of secrecy the State Government, without the approval of the Parliament, has entered into a contract with a private consortium which will allow it access to and presumably use our private and sensitive land title information.

Other than announcing that there will be the commercialisation of a “range of transactional land services functions” under a 40-year services agreement in exchange for $1.6 billion, scant detail of the terms of the agreement have been released. 

South Australia has enjoyed a reputation for having a gold-standard Lands Titles system that is the envy of the world, with quality service provided by dedicated long-term staff. This is critical to investment in our State and to minimise liability if something goes wrong. 

Inevitably, private enterprise is focused primarily on financial return to shareholders. Concerns have been raised that the robustness of the system will be weakened and that formerly unnecessary Lands Titles insurance may become commonplace and an additional financial burden with property transactions. That is what happened in Ontario where a similar change was introduced. 

Because the government has, to date, refused to disclose the terms of the agreement, it is difficult to know how this private consortium intends to make a return on its considerable investment of $1.6 billion over 40 years. Logically, it must involve substantial fees for the services that it will provide. No satisfactory explanation has been given as to why the government has, unlike NSW, failed to introduce legislation and have the arrangement properly scrutinised by the Parliament. Even if, legally, the transaction can bypass parliamentary scrutiny and be entered into contractually, no good reason has been given as to why the terms of the contract have not been disclosed to the public, whose information is being sold to the purchaser. Further, although the government says that it will regulate the terms of the contract, how can we inform the government of possible breaches if we do not know the terms? We should all be entitled to know what the government has agreed to allow the private consortium to do with our data. 

The Government says it will continue to control regulated fees, but this suggests that the private operator can introduce new unregulated fees. We would be at the mercy of the private monopoly as to what we have to pay for those new products and services.

If the $1.6 billion is not being used to reduce debt and the Government is depriving itself of potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue per year, how is it in our interest to sell it off? 

This continues a worrying trend of highly-profitable, well-run public assets being sold off. What’s next? 

This article by Tony Rossi was published on the Law Society of South Australia website.

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