THE NATIONAL Electronic Conveyancing System (NECS) is one step closer to reality, despite a boycott of first round discussions before they even took place.
Representatives of the Queensland state government staged a boycott of the conference aimed to jump start the NECS initiative, cancelling their involvement in the final hour.
Queensland representatives were registered to attend the stakeholders meeting, held to discuss potential models for a national system. Organisers were told of Queensland's plan to boycott two days before the conference kicked off. This move came despite Queensland's initial support of both the stakeholder group meeting and its proposed agenda in a public vote.
Despite Queensland's non-involvement, organisers branded the meeting a success. In attendance were representatives from most state law societies, Federal Treasury, the Attorney General’s Department, the major banks as well as non-lawyer conveyancers, professional indemnity insurers and property developers.
Executive director of the NECS office, Simon Libbis, said the meeting was intended as a starting point for discussion. “It’s really a meeting to talk about how we’re going to have the [future] meeting,” he said on the eve of the stakeholders meeting.
Libbis had anticipated a contentious atmosphere, but consensus was the word he used to describe the meeting the following Monday morning.
Attendees agreed on the make-up of the national project team — with one representative allocated to each stakeholders group, comprising lawyers, bankers, convenyancers, mortgage processors, information brokers, jurisdictions, main registries, state registry offices and non-bank lenders.
In addition, there will be up to six casual members brought in to offer expertise relating to particular issues as they arise.
The system will be of a truly national character despite Queensland’s non-attendance, according to Libbis. “The person on the project team is there to represent all the jurisdictions, so [the boycott] won’t make a [practical] difference. It just means Queensland won’t be on the [project team] because they can hardly be representative when they wouldn’t come to the meeting.”
A representative of the Department of Land Information and Titles was not available to comment on the reasons behind the boycott. However the state government has already made its objections to NECS public in a letter to the editor of The Australian Financial Review in October 2007.
In the letter, Craig Wallace, the Minister assisting the Premier in Queensland, wrote that the government was committed to providing resources to electronic conveyancing initiatives, but favoured the Victorian Electronic Conveyancing (VEC) model over NECS. The letter labelled NECS “a flawed draft” and called for review of both the NECS model and the administrative body headed by Libbis.
The formation of a national project team is intended to breakdown inter-jurisdictional disputes which have stalled progress towards a national conveyancing system. Libbis admitted that managing the divergent interests and expectations of stakeholders is no easy task.
“The concern that clearly came out on Friday is that the industry is concerned about the system getting bogged down because of jurisdictional differences, and if it kept going that way I think we would have lost their support,” he said.
Libbis expects membership to be finalised by the end of the month. The Law Council will be responsible for selecting a national representative for the legal profession.
“This is a forum and an opportunity for industry to have more say, and I think it was a way to move forward. Most, if not all, were supportive of this process, as it allows them to be more involved in the decision making process,” Libbis said.
The first meeting of the NECS group will be held by the end of March. Libbis anticipates that with Steering Committee approval, the operation of the system will commence in May.