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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 9 Hansard (19 September) . . Page.. 2847..


MR MULCAHY (continuing):

fanciful. I am not saying that position is correct. This is the advice that has been conveyed to my office.

Other significant reservations that have been raised by the legal profession have been concerned with the compatibility of the new electronic systems with legal practices' existing IT systems and the increased reliance on computer systems generally. ACT government representatives have assured us that they have been consulting with law firms regarding these concerns and are offering a training package to assist with their transition. We hope that these are sufficiently adequate measures in ensuring that the issues raised by solicitors are properly addressed.

I understand that the ACT government intends to employ InTACT for the development and ongoing management of the new electronic system's security safeguards. We hope that InTACT has the requisite expertise and reliability to ensure that an important new system such as this one is maintained properly and with a minimum of technical difficulties.

There are several limitations to the range of dutiable transactions that this new electronic system will cover. For example, duty relief for the home buyer concession scheme involves overly complex income testing requirements, and some business-related duties will always involve too many front-office processes for an automated system to cope with. Nevertheless, it is intended that as many duties as possible will be eventually incorporated into this system, improving the efficiency of processing and collecting ACT government revenue in this area.

As far as the revenue implications are concerned, I am advised that it is expected that over $2 million will be saved by the introduction of this new system by 2009. The additional audit fees arising from the potentially increased volume of trust account transactions being processed is another area of some discussion. However, officials have indicated that the government is working with the legal profession to ensure that any undue costs to their business as a result of these changes are minimised. I believed, from the briefing I was kindly provided, that a separate accounting arrangement was going to be established, but it does not seem that that is fully appreciated yet by the law society, based on the information provided.

In summary, the opposition is of the view that this bill is a step in the right direction from a theoretical perspective. It is our policy to support improvements in efficiency in government. We note that this streamlines the processing of conveyancing duties for land transactions, adopts electronic transaction technology that has been already widely adopted in other areas of business and saves the government money.

There are, however, some issues that have yet to be fully resolved with the legal profession. I understand that the system will not be introduced until at least probably February next year. One hopes that in the coming months these matters are fully resolved. But it is important for the legal profession that their concerns are addressed satisfactorily in relation to the practicality of the proposed mechanisms through which duties will be collected and processed. On the understanding that these issues will be properly addressed and in light of the fact that I am of the view that the end product potentially delivers savings to the ACT taxpayer and will improve the overall running of


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