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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 9 Hansard (23 November) . . Page.. 2323 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

Mr Speaker, the purpose of the Land Titles (Amendment) Bill is to amend the Real Property Act 1925. That Act has operated to regulate the administration of land titles in the ACT for many years without substantive review. Over the years the Registrar-General's office, which administers the Act, has received many suggestions for changes to the Act which the conveyancing industry would like to see made.

As far back as 1976 the Law Reform Commission of the ACT, headed by the Hon. Mr Justice Blackburn, prepared a report entitled "Report on the Law Relating to Conveyancing". That report, commonly known as the Blackburn report, noted that there was a great and increasing need for a thorough review of the whole law of real and personal property in the ACT. It also concluded that the time was ripe for a thorough reconsideration of the whole Real Property Act and of the substantive law underlying the Act.

The commission's terms of reference were limited to a review of the law of real and personal property in the ACT with the aim of introducing simplified procedures for the registration of title, and thus reducing the legal costs of the conveyancing industry in the ACT. Its report did not, therefore, recommend any major changes in the structure or substance of the Real Property Act, but it did suggest a number of amendments which would make the Act easier to follow. Some of those amendments have already been incorporated in the Act, notably those which involve computerisation of the land titles register. It is envisaged that, at some later stage and in line with the Blackburn suggestion, consideration will be given to reconsidering the Act as a whole, perhaps on entirely new principles, and to the substantive law underlying the Act.

In the meantime, further amendments, as outlined in the Bill as presented today, are proposed. These will introduce changes that will effectively bring the ACT into line with New South Wales in regard to the administration of the system of land titles registration. This will be of particular importance to those practitioners in the ACT who also practise in New South Wales. It will also benefit ACT residents who purchase land in New South Wales. While many of the proposed amendments are technical in nature, or are designed to improve administrative efficiency, some are of significant importance, notably those which deal with caveats and easements.

Mr Speaker, the Torrens system, upon which the Real Property Act is based, is designed to protect interests that have been entered in the register. Although interests are not fully protected until the documents evidencing them have been registered, the system does contemplate some protection being afforded prior to registration. The caveat procedure is the means by which such temporary protection can be obtained. The amendments seek to clarify and simplify the caveat procedure, and so make clear the rights and obligations of all parties concerned with an interest in land. One of the proposed amendments provides that a caveat shall not be registered unless it is in a registrable form. This is important, as it means that a caveat must be treated in the same way as any other document submitted for registration and will be treated, from the point of view of priority, as any other registered document.

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