SALE OF LAND AMENDMENT BILL 2014

I rise to make a contribution to the debate on the Sale of Land Amendment Bill 2014. As my colleague the member for Williamstown indicated, we on this side of the chamber do not oppose this bill. There are some important reforms in the bill, but there are a number of matters of significant concern to a number of parties which I would like to canvass. I want to ventilate some of the aspects that relate to the position taken by the Victorian Farmers Federation because I think there are some serious issues to which the government ought to give further consideration. There are also issues relating to bodies corporate. In our experience working in electorate offices all of us in this house would be aware that it is not uncommon for people to come to talk to us about concerns they have in relation to the structure and function of bodies corporate.

That is a continuing issue that many of us have to address — —

I thank my colleague. He is both a colleague and a dear, longstanding comrade of mine. I am proud to call my brother that. The bill amends the Sale of Land Act 1962 to reform and modernise the provisions relating to section 32 statements. Section 32 of the present act requires those who sell land in Victoria to disclose certain information to a purchaser through a vendor statement. Many of us in this chamber have purchased houses. The section 32 statement has always been an important legal and psychological safety net for all of us who have purchased land or property because it brings with it a level of surety — —

It also brings a level of comfort, as the member for Broadmeadows quite rightly says, that all the relevant things are in place to satisfy transfer of land requirements, conveyancing requirements and so forth. This central plank is important to the way that titles are exchanged in this state, whether that be by way of purchase and sale of land or purchase and sale of house and land and so forth.

I know that the section 32 statement is always pointed out in auction environments. Lawyers look over the section 32 statement in great detail to satisfy themselves that both the seller and the purchaser of land have fulfilled all their statutory requirements pertaining to such a transaction, which, as my colleagues have indicated, for many of us is the most significant purchase we will make in our lives.

This is an important reform, and that is why we do not oppose the bill.

The bill re-enacts section 32 of the Sale of Land Act 1962 with improvements to increase efficiencies, improve the readability of section 32 statements, and bring greater clarity to, and refinement of, existing disclosure requirements. For those non-lawyers amongst us who have had to wade our way through section 32 statements, it has always been a wise course of action, I have found, to take a bit of legal advice about this for the reasons I have already canvassed. Sometimes legalese can be quite difficult to translate into lay language, and any attempt by government to write in plain language that is understandable to the general public cannot be a bad thing. It is something that across this Parliament we have attempted to do, particularly in the drafting of legislation, so that rather than being obscure it is able to be understood in clear language.

There are two important elements to this bill, which the member for Williamstown in his contribution canvassed very well.

The first relates to the imbroglio that currently exists between the government and the Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF). It is a most unfortunate situation the government finds itself in where allegations have been made — in a very plain way — by the VFF. A VFF media release states:

The current section 32 notice, which will be deleted by the government, states:

‘Important notice to purchasers: the property may be located in an area where commercial agricultural production activity may affect your enjoyment of the property …

This is the nub of the VFF’s concern. The media release also states:

‘Legislation due before Parliament this week will remove the section 32 notice —

which I have indicated —

warning people that … they may be exposed to noise, smell and dust normally produced by agricultural activities’, Victorian Farmers Federation president Peter Tuohey said.

‘The VFF was stunned to see agriculture Minister Walsh claiming amendments he planned to introduce this week would be welcomed by the VFF.

On it goes:

Not only has the government failed to deliver on its 2010 election promises, it’s drafted legislation to remove the current notice to potential buyers in section 32s. It was one of the few protections farmers had.

 

That is a pretty damning indictment of our friends in The Nationals, who essentially seek to be in the Parliament in part to represent the interests of the VFF. This is quite a damning commentary.

Ms McLeish interjected.

I thank the member for Seymour, as always, for her erudite contribution.

Nonetheless — —

I would have thought they would seek, as a partner in this coalition government, to get this matter sorted out on behalf of one of their core constituencies, the VFF. But clearly they have miserably failed.

Why is this important? It is important for this reason: I had the honour to be the Minister for Local Government, and in all my conversations with people in regional Victoria this matter was a major concern for them, particularly in peri-urban council areas, where you find residential development encroaching on or near land where farmers may have been conducting their business for generation after generation. It is about how you are able to manage the potential conflict around development, often in major regional settings but also in peri-urban councils, and how local government is able to address the questions of the sometimes competing and conflicting demands of residential communities and existing broiler farms and other activities, which can be quite noisy and often emit odour and so forth.

I think the failure of the government and the Minister for Agriculture and Food Security — he is here tonight to listen to my contribution, and I thank him for that — to address what I think are very legitimate concerns of the VFF in relation to some protections under the section 32 statement, Minister, is a serious failure on your part and a failure to address one of the very significant — —

Those opposite have failed to address a fundamental concern of one of their key constituencies. If I had a bit more time — —

I would enjoy an extension of time because I would have liked to have dealt with the question of owners corporations certificates. Unfortunately I do not have an extension, but I say to the Minister for Agriculture and Food Security and the Leader of The Nationals that they ought to fix the VFF’s problem, not duck it.