THE VICTORIAN Government has called on state attorneys-general to recommend the adoption of Victoria’s model for electronic conveyancing as a national scheme.
Rob Hulls, Victoria’s Attorney-General and Planning minister, recently announced that an office would be established in Melbourne to coordinate the national effort.
Hulls told ministers at the recent Standing Committee of Attorneys-General (SCAG) in Sydney that Victoria had laid the groundwork for a national system and a pilot of e-conveyancing with the ANZ, Bendigo, St George, Suncorp and Westpac banks, which will begin early next year.
“A National Electronic Conveyancing Office has been set up in Melbourne to coordinate the development of a nationwide system and I urge all states and territories to get on board,” Hulls said.
“For this to be feasible, given that people buy and sell properties across state borders, it requires critical mass basically and for other states to be involved,” said a spokesperson for Hulls last week. “That’s what the banks want as well, they don’t just want to invest in something in one state.”
“So we’re saying, ‘we have got the support of the banks on this, they’re keen to get it national, can you please come on board’.”
The spokesperson said it was uncertain at present what the reaction had been at the SCAG meeting, but “what they usually tend to do when one state says we want to do this but we want it to be national is they will say ‘look, we’ll wait and see the results of the trial, and then reserve judgement until then’”.
David Bell, chief executive of the Australian Bankers Association, said moving from a paper system to an efficient electronic system would provide substantial benefits for consumers and business.
“An electronic system removes the need for cheques from financial institutions and reduces delays for the customer who has to wait for the cheques to clear. It also provides the purchaser with certainty as to when they can move into their new home,” he said.
“It will also remove the need for parties to attend settlements, which is particularly important if you are a property buyer or seller, transacting far from home.”
Building a national system will take some time, Bell said, but once in place efficiency benefits and cost savings were likely to be delivered to the community.
Andrew Perry, director, legal and technology at legal.consult pty ltd, has been closely following the development of electronic conveyancing. He said recently the complexities of dealing with different jurisdictions means a national e-conveyancing system is likely to take at least three years to put in place.
He said the most significant issues to be resolved before construction of a national system can begin are the security framework that will be adopted and the apportionment of risk between the participants. “Understandably, industry players will not adopt e-conveyancing if the system is open to fraud and abuse or if they are otherwise exposed to increased liability.”
The Victorian Government has estimated that savings in time and paper from an electronic system would exceed $100 million a year by 2010.
See: ‘Building the home page’, Lawyers Weekly issue 262, 14 October