I rise to speak on the Consumer Acts Amendment Bill 2016.
It is somewhat of an omnibus bill, in that it seeks to amend a number of acts, including the Associations Incorporation Reform Act 2012, the Conveyancers Act 2006, the Motor Car Traders Act 1986, the Sale of Land Act 1962 and the Second-Hand Dealers and Pawnbrokers Act 1989.
In relation to the Associations Incorporation Reform Act, this bill seeks to create a level of harmonisation with commonwealth legislation and to reduce red tape. For instance, if a not-for-profit organisation is registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission and has reporting requirements to that body, then a not-for-profit may upon application be exempted from providing the same or similar reporting requirements to the Victorian body.
The bill will also allow for information sharing between regulators to streamline and relieve the reporting burden on not-for-profits. You can see how this amendment will relieve the need for duplication of reporting requirements and reduce the financial burden on not-for-profits, which are generally organisations established for the community good and often feel that heavy burden of regulation. Public officers in many of these organisations often really struggle to get the paperwork done that they need, so avoiding as much duplication as possible will be good for them. The bill also makes changes to harmonise the entry and inspection powers under the act, harmonising them with provisions under the Australian Consumer Law and Fair Trading Act 2012.
This is part of the journey towards achieving a nationally uniform approach to consumer law enforcement, and it is certainly to be commended on that basis. The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission was established in 2012, and it represents a step by the commonwealth government to regulate the sector. Over a very long period of time it was felt that many organisations out there were not being regulated sufficiently and that there needed to be a national body to provide that level of regulation.
The bill seeks in part to complement the commonwealth legislation. For so many charities — and many of us have been involved in them over the years — and not-for-profits, the simplification is very welcome.
I will move on to the Conveyancers Act 2006. The bill makes some fairly simple and minor amendments to that act to ensure consistency with other consumer affairs legislation in relation to its enforcement provisions. In doing so it provides for a penalty to be applied against a person who, without reasonable excuse, refuses or fails to comply with a requirement of an inspector or the director under the power of entry part of the act.
Another minor amendment is to the Second-Hand Dealers and Pawnbrokers Act 1989. This enables the registrar to allow a business to obtain a refund if it cannot go ahead with a proposal. This is something that is at the discretion of the registrar of the Business Licensing Authority.
The amendment to the Motor Car Traders Act 1986 will enable a motor car trader to sell or dispose of a motor car without first procuring the cancellation of a security interest that is registered on the Personal Properties Securities Register. Generally a security interest will be a genuine interest, such as a car loan or the like, and the sheriff will need to discharge that in the normal course, but there are circumstances where people have effectively fraudulently registered interests, and this amendment will deal with that sort of situation.
A cooling-off period is provided for in the Sale of Land Act 1962. It is a very important consumer right. The act allows a purchaser under a contract of sale of land to give notice to the vendor that they do not wish to go ahead with the contract. Such notice must be given within three clear business days after the purchaser has signed the contract. For lawyers, conveyancers and real estate agents who operate in this area, it has been commonly understood that, for the purpose of giving notice under these cooling-off provisions, notice by the purchaser to the real estate agent is sufficient. However, it often happens that interpretation of these provisions can become tricky, and recent litigation in this area has caused purchasers, or potential purchasers, some serious concern. It is to clarify the law in this area that this amendment is being made. It will make very clear that the previously held view that notice can be given by a purchaser to the vendor’s real estate agent pursuant to the cooling-off provisions is valid.
I think it is fair to say that the last thing people need to deal with when it comes to purchasing a property — and sometimes the purchase of a family home is the largest investment that a Victorian will ever make — is to become embroiled in a dispute resulting in considerable financial loss, particularly by way of litigation, so I welcome the clarity that this amendment introduces.
The final amendment contained in this bill relates to the Veterans Act 2005. It will enable patriotic funds to be used to support a wide range of Victorian service people. Patriotic funds date back to the time of the First World War, and there are very many of them. They were set up with the very good intention of supporting and assisting veterans and their families and to provide welfare services and clubrooms for former and serving defence personnel and their descendants.
There are still very many patriotic funds in existence, and they are often burdened with old-fashioned trust deeds with purposes not fitting current needs. This legislation expands the purposes for which the funds can be applied. It can often be really difficult to change or amend a trust deed. In many cases it can require an application to the Supreme Court, but this legislative change will enable the director of Consumer Affairs Victoria to approve the amendment or adoption of a new deed for a patriotic fund. The director is responsible for the administration and regulation of patriotic funds in Victoria in accordance with the act. I commend the bill to the house.