Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 14 Hansard (Thursday, 24 November 2005) . . Page.. 4568 ..
Conveyancing Act, as applied and modified in the ACT by the Conveyancing Act 1951; the Law of Property (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1958 and the Trustee Act 1957.
This situation, according the commission, urgently needed modification and simplification. The commission felt, however, that it was not in a position to be able to undertake the complete revision of the law relating to property in the ACT, undertaking instead a more limited review designed to remove anomalies, clarify sections and limit, as far as possible, the number of steps required to be taken to effect the conveyance of land in the ACT.
The program examined the old ACT law relating to the law of property. While for many centuries this law covered the acquisition of interests in land and goods, it has been largely overtaken by modern legislation. The sale of land is now regulated under the Land Titles Act of 1925 and the sale of goods is regulated by sale of goods and fair trading laws. The review only tangentially examines the modern legislation. It is a housekeeping exercise aimed at discovering and making more accessible old rules that might continue to have relevance to legal transactions in the ACT.
It is unwise to attach too great an importance to the old law, but neither should it be underrated. It is a confusing maze of legislation. Much of it is archaic, unintelligible language. For example, until very recently it was still the law that;
The due registration in the office of the Registrar-General of any deed of feoffment shall operate as and be for the purposes equivalent to livery of seisin as to the lands and hereditaments comprised in and intended to be conveyed by such a deed of feoffment, the same in all respects as if there had been livery of seisin actually made and given of the same lands and hereditaments in the most valid and effectual form and manner.
In plain English, this simply means, perhaps surprisingly, that a modern transfer of property has the same effect as handing over the ring of the door of the building or, if there is no building, a clod of earth. The underlying basis of many old conveyancing laws is completely alien to modern conceptions and needs. In a period of great personal mobility, geographically, socially and economically, land is fundamentally a place of shelter and, if owned, an investment.
Older conceptions based on archaic feudal and medieval dogma and expressed in quasi-magical law-French phraseology are now irrelevant to modern conveyancing transactions. The laws reflect the overriding concern of English society from early medieval society to the 19th century for the ownership or control of land, upon which political power, wealth and social position then depended. The laws are fragmented and, in some cases, duplicated. There are significant gaps in the laws in certain areas. In short, access to the conveyancing laws for the public and the legal profession is poor. The laws do not serve the interests of the modern ACT community.
The program was undertaken as a step in the process of simplifying and bringing up to date ACT conveyancing laws. It was conducted under the ACT legislation review program. As a first stage, in 1996 a detailed review and restatement of the law was published and widely distributed. Subsequently, many of the recommendations in the report to remove archaic provisions have been actioned through a series of review laws. A partial codification has occurred around some of the provisions.