Adjourned debate on second reading.
(Continued from 11 February 2015.)
Ms CHAPMAN (Bragg—Deputy Leader of the Opposition) (12:02): I rise to speak on the Real Property (Priority Notices and Other Measures) Amendment Bill 2015 and indicate that the opposition will not be opposing the passage of this bill in this house. Having received some briefings, but some matters not being resolved, we want to consider whether some amendments need to be considered. However, on the face of it, we understand that there is some pressing need for the passage of this bill and, whilst our concerns are of moment, we accept that they are probably matters that can be resolved between the houses.
Before I address the bill directly, I thank the Attorney in the presence of all our colleagues for his presentation to the Full Court of the Supreme Court this morning in the commission being received by Justice David Lovell, who has now joined his fellow judges at high level on the Supreme Court. I appreciate that the Attorney has spoken on behalf of the parliament this morning.
This bill touches on some of the reforms that are either prudent or necessary, arising out of the introduction of a national scheme to accommodate an ever-changing world and, in particular, the advent of electronic conveyancing. Some members would be familiar with the fact that our property law is one which, historically, has required that all transactions in respect of property needed to be in writing. 'In writing' did not mean it had to be in quill and ink, but it did need to be in a solid form in the sense of being on paper or papyrus.
There is good reason for this, because of the significance of property ownership and the challenges to it and the opportunities for people to access what they should not have and to, in particular, protect the proprietary rights of those who are entitled to the ownership of land, or an interest in it. It has also been there for other reasons, I think, in the last couple of hundred years—to ensure that there is a paper trail to protect the revenue base for whoever is the governing body, whether that is the king or whether it has been a parliament or governments.
It is fair to say that property (that is, real property, being land, and the improvements on it, increasing its value) has attracted over the centuries a multitude of taxes. One way of making sure that the collector of the funds (the chancellors of the exchequers of the world) or, now, the member for West Torrens gets his money is to make sure there is a paper trail and a documentary evidence of transactions.
You could not, and still cannot, just have a handshake in relation to the transfer of a piece of real property and expect that you are going to get away with it or that, indeed, the 'handshakee' is likely to have any secure protection on the equitable ownership of that property. That has been around for centuries and that has had, obviously, a whole structure of law set around it to make sure that it happens and, also, that it protects the interests that we have referred to.
But here is the real world. The real world is one where an electronic recording of significant transfers and interests is a way of the world. I am yet to see e-wills but that may be next around the corner.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: We have video wills.
Ms CHAPMAN: Yes, video wills, as the Deputy Speaker mentions. I always thought you would be either buried or cremated but I am now told you can have a chemical bath. I like to think of my e-laser burial, but it is yet to come. But it is a reality that we do need to accommodate this, not just because we are in an electronic recording world—whether it is your health records, property assets, will or any other important documents and recordings that we have. Emails, of course, for example, have recently come under scrutiny by the ICAC Commissioner (Hon. Bruce Lander) in relation to ensuring that they are retained for the purposes of state records. So we have a lot of laws that sit around the recording of things when they have moved from a paper across to an electronic world. This is really no exception.
I am thankful for the advice and, indeed, considerable time provided yesterday by the Registrar-General of the Lands Titles Office (Mr Brenton Pike). He has provided both information in writing and at his session. It is unusual for me to do this but I also wish to thank Mr Peter Geytenbeek, who is an adviser to the Attorney. I have not quite worked out his level of seniority yet but I think he is up there with Mr Evans and others. In any event, he has been most helpful in promptly providing some material from the government, in particular, the Attorney's office, for a proposed amendment which I indicate, on the face of it, will have no objection from our side of the house.
The areas under consideration really fall into three categories. One is the introduction of a process of priority notices, which is already applicable in some other states. The second is to provide for the verification of an identity regime to be more expansive which, whilst onerous, on the face of it, is necessary for both consistency and protection. I am going to address those two in a moment.
There is also provision for crown lease and variations to the Real Property Act to clarify and sensibly modernise the registration of crown leases, which is a responsibility of the Lands Titles Office in providing a register of crown leases. As distinct from people who have an interest in fee simple, there is a crown lease registry which they maintain responsibility for. Perhaps I will address that first so that the Attorney can have someone get busy and perhaps check with another minister as to what is actually going on in that regard.
There is apparently a unit in the Department of Environment under minister Hunter which has responsibility for the management and fees that apply, stocking rates, etc., for pastoral leases and which, again, are leases that are given out usually to station owners across the north of the state mostly, some above the Riverland and a few on the West Coast around Lock. As I see it, and this is what I think needs to be clarified, we have crown leases in a category which encompasses a number of types of leases, and pastoral leases are, in a way, a type of crown lease.
The land is owned by the Crown and there is a document issued to give you the right to occupy and to be able to improve and various things as in a crown lease. However, the pastoral leases, particularly given the climatic circumstances and the very delicate nature of that environment, I think it is fair to say, on balance have an even higher threshold of obligation by the land occupier in respect of things that they are to do or not do on the property which they occupy. Very often the regimes for that are set by the Minister for Environment. As I say, delicacy of soil, the capacity to erode the natural environment, and indeed the significance in ensuring there is not overstocking and the like are all factors which all add to the, I think, reasonable reasons why, to date, we have had a Pastoral Board which helps manage that, with the Minister for Environment having ultimate responsibility.
There is other proposed legislation to get rid of the Pastoral Board, and the Minister for Environment is going to assume responsibility for how much the pastoralists pay for occupancy in the licence to occupy under their pastoral leases, stocking rates and all the other things that go with the obligations they have. Whilst personally I am not very happy with that, the reason I raise it in this bill is that, if the unit in the Department of Environment is going to continue to operate and there is already a responsibility at the Lands Titles Office for the keeping of a register (the keeper of the books as to who owns the crown leases), it seems to me that we need to have the independence of the Lands Titles Office regime in some way involved in ensuring that those pastoral leases are also kept in a proper record.
At this stage, it seems to be two departments that are dealing with this. One department is proposing to assume responsibility of external supervision and get rid of the board. I think that has been a watchdog for a number of reasons, but this is one of them, and if there is going to be some reform in that area and we are here to modernise it in a more narrow way in the sense of the account-keeping of that register, I would ask the Attorney to inquire of his fellow cabinet minister as to what is going to be going on in that regard and whether there is room for further action to be taken in that area of reform.
The second reading tells us that this current bill is to remove existing, apparently ambiguous, respects of the registration of crown leases, and since the amendments made in 1990 the legislation has not contained an express power to register or record dealings with crown leases. That may apply to pastoral leases; I think that needs to be looked into.
The other reason suggested that the dealings, if I paraphrase it, in respect of crown leases and in particular the instruments dealing with them, whether that was transfers, mortgages etc., should be registered and recorded in the same way as other lands in the register book. That is apparently already happening and has for some time, and it is a statutory endorsement of that practice. Again, I think we need to look at how pastoral leases fit in with that regime.
There is provision, apparently, for the circumstance in which a crown lease can be registered where consent that is necessary under the legislation governing crown leases has not been obtained. This specifically refers to the Crown Land Management Act 2009 and the Pastoral Land Management and Conservation Act 1989, so I think we need to know a little bit more about that, in particular how it applies to Pastoral Land Management and Conservation Act matters. If the Attorney-General does not know and it is really still in the remit of the Minister for Environment, he is on notice that I will be asking questions about that when we deal with the boards and committees legislation, possibly later this week.
The final matter we are advised of in the second reading is that clarification is required for what is described as:
…the long held understanding that a registered Crown lease, or a registered interest in a Crown lease, is considered to be indefeasible in the same way as an estate or interest in land that is registered in the register book. However, indefeasibility of Crown leases and instruments affecting Crown leases is subject to consistency with the legislation governing Crown leases.
I do not understand that. It may be a simple observation, but it seems inconsistent with my understanding of what the situation is. Perhaps we can have some clarification or even an example of where there is some weakness in the system if we do not make express provision to do just that. There are some other amendments which are in the 'other measures', I expect, in the title of this bill. This relates to questions of certifications under the Real Property Act being given by a natural person with personal knowledge of the matters being certified. I will come back to that in our discussion as to the verification of identity proposals. Can I say that those matters that are raised as other amendments appear to be incidental to the two primary objectives.
I return then to the two areas of the bill which I would describe as the most substantive. Following the development of national electronic conveyancing systems across the country, I note, as provided by Mr Pike, that there is electronic conveyancing law, which is adoption of the national law and the scheme that is to apply now across the country. It has happened over the last few years. We passed our legislation back in 2013 and it was ultimately assented to on 5 December 2013, and it appears that everyone except the ACT has signed up to the national scheme.
Mr Pike attempted to explain to me why the ACT is not in there. He is no doubt very familiar with what their processes are, but they apparently have not signed up to the agreement and therefore have not been party ultimately to the scheme that is being rolled out. I suspect that it is something to do with the ownership of all of the land in the ACT; members would be familiar with the fact that it is land that was effectively given up by the state of New South Wales to accommodate our capital when Canberra was established.
We in South Australia often look on with amusement when New South Wales and Victoria do not agree. At that time, in the early part of the last century, they could not agree where the capital of Australia should be, so they decided that they would build a new one. I think that they should have put it in Adelaide myself. Nevertheless, Victoria and New South Wales, or Sydney and Melbourne, in particular, have not usually agreed with most things over the last 200 years and, true to form, they set up a new bit of territory. New South Wales handed over some farmland. They plugged up either end of the creek and built Lake Burley Griffin and then built a beautiful city around it, and that is now the home of our national parliament, national art gallery and the High Court, etc., and it is a lovely part of Australia.
But the ownership of people who buy a property in the suburb of Chapman, or any other suburb of Canberra, do not get the same proprietary rights as an estate in fee simple like we do in the rest of Australia. They have a crown lease system for everything, so they do not enjoy, I suppose, the same level of autonomy in their ownership and exclusivity and indivisibility in their ownership.
I am only guessing, but I suspect that the ACT says, 'We don't give a toss what the rest of Australia does, we're under a different system, and we want to keep our own system. We know what we're doing. It's a good system, and the rest can do what they like.' I might be wrong but, in any event, good luck to them. They might want to sort of crawl in the door one day. I notice that even Queensland and Western Australia came crawling in when we decided to federate, so I suppose the ACT might do so when they run out of money and decide that they want to join the team.
I am not a great advocate of national laws. I am a federalist. I noticed in the parliament yesterday that our newest member, the member for Davenport, is a self-proclaimed federalist. I welcome him to the parliament and the importance of ensuring that we share power in the levels of government in Australia. So, I welcome him for his commitment to that, which he made public in his maiden speech. The reason I am particularly concerned about national laws is that I have been here for 13 years, and I cannot think of one set of national law where we have actually done any better or a lot better having introduced it, and I covered transport and infrastructure, and we have had myriad legislation there.
We have had a railways commissioner and a roads commissioner here in South Australia for, I think, 100 years. They have special powers to acquire land, to build important roads and rail and all sorts of things, and we have had a structure in relation to transport and infrastructure which I think has done pretty well.
We have had registration of heavy vehicles, ships and marine vessels. I am proudly part owner of a building in Victoria Square, which accommodated the Harbors Board for 80 years or so in this state. We have had rail registration to deal with the private operators in South Australia—this is the non-passenger operating in South Australia.
When we nationalised those, what happened? We set up a system where the national head office for rail would be in South Australia, the national head office for trucks and heavy transport would be in Queensland, and the national head office for ships and marine vessels would be in Canberra. Of course, they know a lot about water, don't they? Of course, they have none, and they are close to the sea—not. In any event, we now have, I think, pretty much dysfunctional national system in relation to registration of marine, rail and heavy transport as a result of moving from really good models in some of the states in each of those areas to a shambles.
Interestingly, I think that Canberra is probably the closest to getting better, but then we do not have a very big shipping transport system out of South Australia relative to other states, particularly Victoria, but it is still an important one; it takes the biggest produce from South Australia, in our mining and primary produce, out through the gulfs and out of Port Adelaide. We have a reasonable container business, so shipping is important.
What we have ended up with is a structure of registration at these national headquarters which has caused extra costs, inconvenience and delay of all three, particularly heavy transport—it is not so much rail, but those two are worse than marine, I think—over the last few years. It has been a mess. You ask any truck driver in South Australia who is now waiting for a permit to be able to go on a council road from a property into their local town to unload their shipment of grain, and/or to go onto a property to collect their grain. Frankly it is a mess. They have had to wait weeks when they have a seasonal obligation to clear silos, unload their product and collect it from local farms. It is a mess, and that is just one example.
So I place on the record yet again my cynicism, perhaps unreasonably in this instance, about how the national program is going to be quicker, cheaper, more efficient and valuable to those who are involved in it. My experience is that it has added more structures—
The Hon. J.R. RAU: Point of order, on two grounds. The first one is that we are slightly moving off the topic, and the second one is that the deputy leader knows very well she is pressing all my buttons. She knows that I agree with everything she is saying and she is—
An honourable member: Point of order?
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I am sure he is coming to it.
The Hon. J.R. RAU: She is trying to get me to withdraw this bill.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I don't think that is a point of order, is it?
The Hon. J.R. RAU: Stop tempting me with that sort of stuff, please, member for Bragg.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I am searching desperately for it, but I do not think it is a point of order.
Ms CHAPMAN: I humbly apologise for teasing the Attorney-General
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: So you admit you are teasing the Attorney? There must be a standing order on that: no teasing.
Ms CHAPMAN: Frankly, if he had any courage he would go into cabinet and say, 'Listen, why are we signing up to all these national schemes when they don't actually provide us with what they say they are going to provide us?' Having indicated his position of agreement with what I am saying on this, he has failed to walk into that cabinet room and make sure that we are not dragged into them before they get these wonderful panaceas of national schemes that are going to work.
Nevertheless, he and I both agree that we are stuck with the fact that we are in the electronic world. Gone are the days of going down to the Land Titles Office—probably driving down (depending on where we are coming from) in our boss's car, or walking down—with a little folder of pink-ribboned, folded title documents ready to meet with the bank, the solicitors or the conveyancers for the other side, and various other people who attended in those days, to conduct a settlement with respect to the transfer of land.
Gone are the days—sadly, I think—where, when you did have your settlement, the clerk behind the desk would check the original title, check the documents, and would pencil onto the title both the discharge of mortgage and the transfer of the new mortgage (or multiples of those), and then there would be a thorough checking of these documents before these others, beavering behind in the Land Titles Office. They would make sure—
The Hon. J.R. Rau interjecting:
Ms CHAPMAN: I will give the tissue box to the Attorney at this point. It all worked. I am here to tell you that even in those days, in that wonderful land of the conveyancing world, there were crooks around. There were people who would try to steal titles, pretend they were someone else, who would cause mischief with land in being able to obstruct the lawful placement of registered interests on titles, all these things. They have always happened. There will always be someone around; as they say, wherever there is property or where there is money there is always corruption. There is nothing new about that. You will always get someone who is trying to get an unfair advantage and something that is unethical or unlawful when it comes to land.
We value it. It is a very important piece of property. It is often the residential home for many South Australians, and that home is very important to them. It is not only secure accommodation, it also provides an asset base for borrowings and security to ensure that they have other opportunities— business and the like—in their life.
There were and there are different interests that can be registered on titles as well, including workers liens if people have not been paid, builders' liens, caveats to secure unregistered interests which are quite lawful and claims against property. We used to have caveats for people who did not pay maintenance for their children. Frankly, I think that should be reintroduced. The minister for community welfare, as it used to be called, used to be able to register a caveat on a title for $10,000 of unpaid child maintenance. When they did not pay, they lined up to get an extra loan. They said they were poor, unemployed—you know, all those things, the usual. When they lined up to get an extra loan for their business or to extend their overdraft—hello?—there would be a little caveat sitting on the title and the minister for community welfare would say, 'Well, nothing is going to happen on this land until I get my money.' And guess what? People used to pay up. They would extend their overdraft, they would borrow a bit extra and they would clear their debts.
It is important that we have an orderly process for the purposes of registering lawful interests, whatever they are, and that we have a system which is there to protect against the bad people who want to unfairly or illegally deny people their rightful entitlement. So, when we come to electronic conveyancing and we do not have a document in existence that people can immediately have copies of, or if we do not have a signature for the purposes of facilitating the authorisation to register—in this case, to register an interest on the title of the land or the person's interest in the land—when we change those rules, we have to be very careful to wrap it with some protection.
The first thing we need to do is ensure that we stop people jumping in ahead of someone else's lawful entitlement to have their interests registered first. Again, if I can just say, historically a classic example of this is when mum and dad give to their son and new daughter-in-law a large loan to go and buy their house and they say, 'We'll have this little agreement where you are going to owe us $50,000 if we ever need it for our medical needs in our retirement. But basically we agree that it's our money.'
Worse still is if the kids are going to divorce. They do not register it so they can avoid things such as registration fees and the like, but everyone understands that that is the arrangement. Then the kids decide that they are going to do a massive extension and they go off to the bank and borrow a huge amount of money. In the event that they did the extension and it did not add any value to the house and there was every likelihood that if it was sold in a hurry the equity, which had been contributed to by the parents, would evaporate, guess what? The bank could get it all.
The kids might be talking to their parents saying, 'We're going to do this,' and so on. The parents might say, 'We want to register the unregistered mortgage that we've got securing our loan to you kids as a first priority,' and the kids might say, 'Well, we don't really want you to do that because it might scare away the bank. It will take up the equity and then they'll say that they won't give us the whole amount of money' and so on. So you have these competing interests. Who should have priority in those circumstances? Should it be the parents, who have advanced that money in the first instance and who are going to be generous in their repayment arrangement? It may not ever happen; it may be cancelled or forgiven at death. Or should it be the bank, from where the kids want that money? Or should it be someone else, like the builder who comes in to do some work to improve the property who has not been paid because, as I say, the kids want to bypass that improvement? He or she might be owed money. Who should get priority there?
The builder may have thought the kids might eventually pay, but they do not. They enter an arrangement where the kids are going to pay over a period of time, but they do not. So eventually the builder goes along to his lawyer and the lawyer says, 'Look, you're just going to have put a lien over this title. It's the only safe way to deal with it.'
What happens is that the kids go in and they say to the bank, 'Okay, we want to borrow $100,000. We want to do that massive extension; there's no other security on this property.' So, what does the bank do? The bank says, 'We are going to register a priority notice.' This is the new regime that is being introduced here, under the legislation, to give someone who is going to have an interest in the property the opportunity to register a priority. This is supposed to alert the rest of the world that, if they have a look at the title and try to register an interest before them, they will see the bank has put a priority notice on the title, and they have to stand in line.
Assume for the moment that the parents do not even know about this, or the builder has no clue what is going on, that he is not even going to look at the title; but if they ever do go to register, when they see that the place has undergone considerable work and then realise that there is a bank loan registered on it before them, they have got no chance. It probably would not even be worth registering it after that, because there may be no chance of getting their money secured, as is a registered mortgagee.
This is designed, apparently, to try to ensure that it tells the world that the banks in particular are going to have priority, that they going to lend some money to the owners, it is going to be secured by a mortgage, and it is to be over 60 or 90-day period (a limited period). It is not a caveat. It is going to be a simple process, apparently, where the notice goes on—it is all electronic. Mr Pike was most helpful in explaining this to me. It is going to be all electronic so the conveyancers can sit in their office, presumably in the bank, and just press a few buttons and the notice will go on the title electronically. So, there is nobody over in Mr Pike's office who has to actually receive it or even necessarily check it. It will be electronic at that point.
There will be a payment of a fee of something like $20—modest—to do that. So, even though it is electronic at that point, there is nobody beavering around behind with a caveat, where they have to check the document and the signatures and then plug it in themselves; it is going to be all electronic. Then, when the real documents come in—that is, the discharges, the mortgages, the transfer documents—they are scanned as well. Again, as I understand it, if they do not measure up exactly as to what the priority notice indicated, some sort of alarm goes off and somebody in the Land Titles Office then has to come in and check those. They think, 'Well, okay, it hasn't turned out exactly as it was supposed to,' so they run a check. It is not universal, but it will be a system that will alert the Land Titles Office if the intended transaction does not match up with what the transaction is actually going to be. A small fee is going to be charged for that.
I was a little bit concerned to hear, Attorney—and you have introduced this obviously to line up with the national scheme, and accepting the merits of having priority notices—that there has not really been any modelling done as to the cost of this being employed in the offices. It is possible—I hope this is the case—that because it is all pretty new not a lot of people are going to use this in a hurry. I am advised that the people who are using it interstate are the banks, obviously. One would assume that they have an army of people who know what they are doing and that there are not a lot of muck-ups with it and that it is not causing a huge burden on the registration offices or the equivalent of the Land Titles Office around the country.
Once we have moved from this transition period, where we have got paper and electronics—and I appreciate some of the system marries the two to keep some consistency so at least the conveyancing and legal profession are not burdened with having different sets of rules for both—this priority notice procedure is going to be not only time-consuming but expensive, and a lot more expensive than $20.
That does not mean that I am going to welcome any regulation in a year's time which suddenly jumps it to $200, let me tell you, but I make this point: it is disappointing to me that the exercise has not been done, first for those in the Lands Titles Office who are going to have to carry out this responsibility but, secondly, the good old payer, the good old consumer, the person who is actually buying the house or interest in a property who has to end up paying for all of these things. They pay for all of the preparation of the documents, they pay all the stamp duties, they pay all the registration fees and this is just going to be one more fee.
Whilst banks might happily use this because they are organised and they are going to be protecting their interests, even their prospective interests (even though they charge sometimes like wounded bulls to their customers), the fact is that it is going to be an extra cost. That does concern me, because we are trying to encourage affordable access for young people particularly in buying their own homes and we are adding another fee. On the face of it, it looks small and modest at this stage but I am not confident that it will stay that way, so I do have some concerns about that.
In respect of the verification of identity, as I understand it this new regime follows a guideline process which has already been used under a policy document which has now been operational I think for 10 months or so at least, and it basically introduces a system to formalise a tightened regime of identification to ensure that the people who have the lawful interest are the people who are getting it, and to ensure that people who are not entitled to these interests cannot get through. Whether that is some dodgy person from Africa or whether it is someone else—we have plenty of our home-grown fraudsters—who might want to get some ill-gotten gain that they are not entitled to, there is a tighteningup of the identification.
The policy document says all the right things, of course: that it is there to protect the lawful owners and so on. However, as usual, when you have these processes, when you tighten them sometimes they add an unintended adverse consequence. Here is the example I want to refer to: because the verification requires a face-to-face identification, plus what I call the 100-point rule—most people understand that now because if you have a bank account or just about anything these days you have to present two documents with photographic evidence and so on—there is a certification procedure that goes with it.
You have to be able to use that as a corroboration of the fact that you are the person in the documents that are to be signed for, or that you are the person who is going to be entitled to it so that, ultimately, when the new regime comes in for considering things such as electronic registration where the conveyancer or the lawyer signs for you, they are be satisfied that their client is the person that is entitled to that interest—and so we have this new regime.
Here is the practical problem: if you live at Coober Pedy and you do not have a local conveyancer or lawyer to provide this service, the verification process still demands that you attend the Adelaide premises to get that verification. The sort of concerns that have been raised with us—and perhaps on the other side as well—is the obligation on the interested purchaser or prospective purchaser to come to Adelaide to have that verification done, because there is no immediate person within the category of authorised persons to do the verification which will provide for that. I am sure I am not the only one who has had this concern raised with them.
It is a little bit like when governments say, 'Well, look, that's not really inconvenient. It might be just one trip to Adelaide'—but that is what they say about hospital services; that you only have to go once to Adelaide to have your knee operated on. However, they forget about the fact that relatives want to visit them if they are in hospital. They forget about the fact that it can be very costly because there is no public transport. They forget about the fact that there has to be pre and post-operative trips, and the cost of this sort of thing is quite oppressive.
I say to the government, who I know are either completely ignorant or insensitive to the cost to people who live in regional South Australia, that they have to get this right. If they are going to progress a verification process, which on all accounts, on the face of it, is a good thing and important to protect against that evil minority, they must understand that there has to be the capacity to recognise those living in the outback of South Australia—and I am talking about anywhere outside the 100-kilometre limit because, frankly, we have pretty limited public transport in metropolitan Adelaide, but wait until you live outside Adelaide and in remote parts of South Australia. I think we have a way to go in making sure that this process is not too onerous on people living in the country.
I want to say this: at the moment, I think this process is to apply to discharge of mortgages and transfers of mortgages, and there is an enormous amount of activity that happens on certificates of title. Whilst we in this place might only deal with these things a few times in our lifetime for our principal place of residence perhaps, out there in the real world, in terms of the use of the home, let alone other pieces of real property, for the purposes of staying in business, starting a business, developing a business, paying for kids to go to school, paying for hospital services, there is a lot of activity that goes on the certificate of title as security either for those opportunities or necessary purchases.
Even though certificates of title are electronically kept and all those sorts of things these days, they can become very busy documents, and certainly lots of transactions can go off and on them. This is not just a one-off for that young couple I talked about earlier in today's contribution; it can happen multiple times on just one piece of property, let alone others. Of course, as most of you will know, if you own more than one piece of property banks are never happy with having security over one piece of property; they want it over everything you have, so there are multiple documents that are prepared over multiple pieces of property to secure the one loan.
I might sound a bit anti bank—I could tell lots of stories about banks, but I will not today, you will be mercifully pleased to hear—but I will say this: they are in business too and they are highly geared to protecting their interests, as you would expect. However, rest assured that if they are accommodating processes which are cheap for them to accommodate in their highly sophisticated scheme it does not mean that they are cheap to implement for the ordinary person in the street who wants to acquire an interest in real property, use it as security in some way or have access to someone else's property to secure their lawful interest.
We have a bit of a David and Goliath situation again. The registrar provided me with some data in respect of the verification of identity, which again I thank him for. It appears that the number of transactions lodged since the introduction of the VOI policy (which I think, from memory, was about March or April last year) on transfers was 36,066; mortgages, 42,157; transmissions, 2,544; deaths, 2,490; and substitute certificates of title, 718. Mercifully, there are not as many deaths but, as most people in this chamber would know, the registration of death is still a process, and we have more people who die in this state than are born, and a significant number of them own a piece of real estate. Even that is a process that this verification procedure needs to go through.
I bring to the attention of the house transfers and mortgages. We are talking about tens of thousands of transactions just in the last 10 months or so and each of these are obliged to go through a verification of identity and an upgraded standard for that to occur. These people who might arguably easily be able to go into their city conveyancer to deal with this do not all live in Burnside. Although at the moment they do not want to do it because the Clipsal makes sure they cannot get through the east Parklands, but anyway, in any event, I make this point: the government has to take into account when they introduce these schemes and they sign up to these national deals that at least a third of the population live outside of the greater metropolitan area of Adelaide.
There is a huge amount of land out there which is under ownership or lease and which is subject to our registration and pretty stringent regulatory regime to protect the lawful interests from the same. When they tamper with it, or they think they are introducing something that is going to be good for everybody, remember the little person. Remember the individual who is not in a position to have an army behind them, whether they are in a government department, or a bank, or a large law firm, but is just a little operator who wants to go about their lawful business, who has worked hard to buy a piece of property and ought to be able to utilise it for their benefit the same as any other person.
At the moment I fear there are a few too many who are caught in that who are, of course, in a situation where they are bound to do it. Why? Because it is good for everybody. Once size fits all, so it is good for the majority. What do the stakeholders say about it? The Real Estate Institute and others have been consulted, I am reliably informed, and we have not heard from them individually, but remember, again, stakeholder groups represent the big and the little frequently.
If you are a member of a restaurant organisation, for example, it can represent the really top end of the market and it can represent the little person who is down at the other end who is close to a popup or whatever. They have vastly different interests, and guess what happens unfortunately in a lot of stakeholder situations? The big guys dominate the representation on a number of stakeholder groups, and someone like the Real Estate Institute is not exempt from this, of course. They receive powerful and well-prepared submissions from large conveyancers, lawyers and the like, but the little guys probably do not even know that there is a review going on.
Some of them do not even know until the last minute that something is coming into play or they might have picked it up in the local newsletter. So they go along to do some extra training and then they find out there is a whole myriad of extra things that they have to do. That is the concern I have for small business and the small landowner who frankly get caught up in what can become a national scheme which has all of the good aspirational targets in it and may be very meritorious on a number of them, but ends up costing a lot of money, further delay and greater inconvenience.
So I wish the Lands Titles Office well in the transition into the new federal regime. I accept that it is reasonable to bring into line the paper transactions with the new electronic regime having signed up to it because that just causes another level of confusion, but it is not without casualties along the way, and that should not be underestimated.
Finally, I have received notice of an amendment to deal with the circumstance of ensuring that the time that is to apply from the date of registration of a priority notice to its expiring automatically is to be extended to facilitate the time of lodgement at the Lands Titles Office until it is actually registered on the title. Because of weekends and the like, overnights, etc., that can be a few days' delay and so the amendment is to remedy the potential for someone slipping in at the last minute. That is possible, but all it does is make me hark for the days of the pencilled clerk.