Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 7 Hansard (22 August) . . Page.. 1887..
Guardianship and Management of Property Amendment Bill 2005
Debate resumed from 19 October 2005, on motion by Mr Stefaniak:
That this bill be agreed to in principle.
MS GALLAGHER (Molonglo—Minister for Health, Minister for Children and Young People, Minister for Disability and Community Services, Minister for Women) (5.27): The government will be supporting Mr Stefaniak's Guardianship and Management of Property Amendment Bill. The purpose of the bill is to fill a gap that exists in the law for managing a missing person's property, namely, to make the immediately needed decisions in relation to such property. Nevertheless, in the government's opinion, the bill has some ambiguities and we will be moving amendments to address them.
The bill will enable a range of persons, such as family members or a relative, to make a decision in relation to the financial matters or property of a person missing for a minimum period of 90 days. Where a property owner's whereabouts are unknown or it is not known whether the person is alive or dead, there is already a process available under section 24 of the Public Trustee Act 1985 for the Supreme Court to appoint the Public Trustee to manage the property. For this purpose the property would need to be treated as unclaimed property. I understand that the Public Trustee has not been required to act under section 34 in the recent past.
The government agrees that the bill could be useful in enabling people to make immediately needed decisions in relation to the financial matters and property of a missing family member or relative. Such decisions could be about mortgage repayments on a family home of the missing person or negotiating with a bank in respect of arrangements in relation to the person's liability. There may be problems of this nature which become significant enough to warrant improving the existing law.
The bill proposes that the Guardianship and Management of Property Tribunal be able to appoint a manager, which is simpler and less expensive than the Supreme Court process under the Public trustee Act. The government supports the bill but proposes amendments to address particular issues. I am able at this stage to table a supplementary explanatory memorandum for the amendments, which I hope people have seen.
I will quickly run through the amendments now. Proposed new section 8AA (5) (c) of the bill proposes that a business partner or employee of a missing person would be also able to apply for management. It would be unlikely that such persons would be interested in pursuing the interests of the missing person. Indeed, they may have interests of their own to protect. The bill does not specify any special circumstances which would justify their applying for management.
If they want to make a decision in relation to the missing partner's or employer's finance or property, they could still apply under proposed new section 8AA (5) (g). This provision enables anyone who has interest in the missing person's property to be