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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 2 Hansard (4 March) . . Page.. 468 ..

MR HARGREAVES (continuing):

People come up to me and say they are really annoyed-usually with words from the great Australian vernacular-abusing the heck out of the Real Estate Institute. It is not the institute's fault. It is because there are crooks in the marketplace-not crooks in the legal sense but crooks in the moral sense. To quote a very famous Labor prime minister, they are "scumbags".

As a prominent jurist once said, verbal agreements are not worth the paper they are written on. Also, one of the fellows who was advising me early on in my political career said to me, talking about campaign strategy, "If you can't write it down, it doesn't exist."Those are wise words as well.

I hope the government will come forward with some mechanism whereby, as soon as the agreement is reached between buyer and seller, it is committed to paper in a binding contract. We need to have written contracts signed off as early in the process as possible.

On the discovery of gazumping, my approach to this immoral practice was initially to propose sanctions: suspending real estate licences-to provide a disincentive for the firms and pass that disincentive on to their operators and contract operators-and fining the seller the equivalent amount of the difference in price achieved by the gazumping so that, if people wanted to indulge in gazumping they would contribute to the ACT's Treasury coffers, once they had been proven to have gazumped.

However, we should bring people willingly to the altar of moral compliance by ensuring that any agreement reached is committed to writing in an enforceable contract as part of the initial agreement. It is far better to have people say, "Let's do it because it is the right thing to do,"than have to beat them over the head with a big stick. The government is introducing a mechanism that will bring these people willingly to the elimination of this immoral practice. However, these people ought to be aware that, if this process does not work, somebody will take a big stick out of their pocket and whack them with it. I will be watching to see just what happens.

The reason I bring this on as a matter of public importance is that the marketplace at the moment is a seller's paradise. We have a shortage of houses, and the buyer is at the mercy of unscrupulous practices. Now is a good time to put those unscrupulous practices to the sword. I hope that all elements of the Assembly contribute to this debate and put themselves behind the elimination of this practice.

If we must have any kind of argument at all, let us argue around the fringes. But let us all commit ourselves to the elimination of this practice. It is a heinous practice. It creates an enormous amount of anger, disappointment, pain and an enormous amount of cost-unnecessary cost-for people.

I urge the Assembly to come up with a collective approach to its elimination. I would like to see that, when the government brings down its mechanism, we look at it and ask ourselves only one question-not, "What political benefit can I get out of this?"but, "Is this going to work?"After all, we are doing what the people of the ACT put us here for: to protect them and give them the best opportunity to realise their dreams. If the great Australian dream is to own a home, imagine how it is to have that dream shattered. It is

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