LAWYERS have welcomed the announcement of a new electronic conveyancing initiative by three Australian states, labelling it a "major milestone" in the road to a national system.
The public company, called the National E-Conveyancing Development Ltd, will be chaired by Alan Cameron AM, a lawyer and former chairman of the Australian Securities & Investments Commission.
Law Council of Australia president Glenn Ferguson said: "The Law Council has been committed to the establishment of a national e-conveyancing system since 2005 and has actively participated in its development."
The announcement, made by the governments of New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria, marks a critical step in the process with the commitment of $5 million by the three states, said Ferguson, who recently took the helm at the Law Council.
"Enabling a lawyer in one state to conduct a property conveyance in another, electronically, has been one of the Law Council's aims through its involvement in the development of NECS. Speeding up the conveyancing process in this way will benefit clients and the economy," he said.
The National Electronic Conveyancing System, or NECS, received approval to be funded from a pool of $550 million from the Council of Australian Governments so that state and territory governments could use standardised electronic procedures to settle property transactions.
But there had been a long-running feud between NSW and Victoria over which state's software and standards would be used to operate NECS.
In September last year the prospect of a single national electronic system to unify what was at least 16 divergent state systems was dealt a substantial blow when Westpac Banking Corporation said it had suspended its participation in the ambitious government scheme.
The bank lost interest as the states bickered over the details of the agreement.
The withdrawal left the project short of vital financial services industry support, which was needed to make it a reality.
But the state's recent agreement now sees the Law Council accept a seat on the Board of the company established by the three governments. The company will develop NECS to the a point where other states and territories can also contribute to its operation.
The Law Council said the involvement of all states and territories will ensure compliance with a Council of Australian Governments' (COAG) National Partnership Agreement for a Seamless National Economy.
Former president of the Law Society of NSW, John McIntyre, also a lawyer, has been appointed to the Law Council's board.
"[McIntyre] will continue the Law Council's active contribution to this important national initiative. The Law Council looks forward to working with the three state governments and other industry representatives on the new Board in the coming months," Ferguson said.