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SACAT Fees Motion

9 May 2018

The Hon. J.A. DARLEY (16:13): I move:

That the regulations made under the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2013 concerning fees—general, made on 26 September 2017 and laid on the table of this council on 28 September 2017, be disallowed.

Previous parliaments have been faced with the issue, when disallowing regulations, where we cannot disallow parts of regulations that have been laid on the table. If we disallow regulations then we must disallow all of them. I am faced with this issue with this disallowance motion, as I am only really concerned with the new regulations as they relate to the Valuation of Land Act.

The new regulations would see fees for a SACAT review of a valuation increase from $71 to $765 for corporations and $545 for others. This is an incredible increase. When these regulations were laid on the table last year, I was a member of the Legislative Review Committee and sought further information from the Attorney-General's Department as to why there was such a big increase. The information provided in the response advised that the increase in fees is needed because the current fees are unsustainable, that SACAT may not be able to deliver their services without an increase, and that an increase in fees would deter frivolous applicants.

I understand there may be applications from owners who are seeking only a very small reduction in their valuation and who lodge applications for reviews without fully understanding the work that is required of them, as well as from the Valuer-General. This is not the fault of the owner. In searching for information on valuation reviews, the only information is the administrative instructions on how to lodge a review. There is no guiding information on what needs to be provided to SACAT or review valuers. The Valuer-General would do well to have information available to the public as it may assist with so-called frivolous applicants.

Further to this, the Valuer-General may find that having conversations with owners at the objection stage may resolve the issue without having to resort to a review at all. Owners often do not know they can request this of the Valuer-General, and it is not something that is advised in the State Valuation Office's objection pack. This simple change would save a lot of time and money in the long run.

I have requested from the Valuer-General's office information regarding the number of objections they receive and the number of these that are then referred to SACAT, or a review valuer, to gain insight into how many people this will affect; however, I am still waiting for these statistics. As such, I will need to conclude my remarks at a later stage.

My concern about the increase in these fees is that it will deny people the right to review, or that many may not bother because of the high cost. This will negate any positive outcome from the review. The current median value for a house in South Australia is $470,000. If an owner asks for SACAT to review the valuation it would need to be a valuation reduction of over 50 per cent in order for the owner to recoup his costs in savings from their rates and taxes. In my 11 years as valuer-general, I cannot ever recall seeing a reduction in value of this magnitude.

I understand that whilst there are other avenues available to request a valuation review, many people choose to have a SACAT review rather than a review by a valuer at a cost, as a SACAT review is lower. This indicates to me that the scale of rates for all reviews should be revised. This may result in an increase in the SACAT fees; however, the level that is being proposed is far too much. As I said previously, I am still waiting for further information from the Valuer-General and, as such, I seek leave to conclude my remarks at a later stage.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.

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6 June 2018

Adjourned debate on motion of Hon. J.A. Darley:

That the regulations made under the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2013 concerning fees—general, made on 26 September 2017 and laid on the table of this council on 28 September 2017, be disallowed.

The Hon. J.A. DARLEY (17:34): As outlined when I first moved this motion, I am seeking to disallow these regulations, as I believe the inordinate increase of 977 per cent will prove to be a barrier to many people seeking a review of valuation through SACAT. At the time of moving the motion, I had sought information from the Valuer-General's office, asking for the total number of reviewed valuations in the past two financial years broken down to the number that were lodged through SACAT or conducted by a review valuer.

In 2015-16, 42 reviews were conducted by valuers and 34 were conducted by SACAT. In 2016-17, 27 reviews were conducted by valuers and 17 were conducted by SACAT. These statistics surprised me, as it shows that, even though the cost was slightly more, people still opted for a review by a valuer rather than by SACAT. Notwithstanding this, I still believe that the increase is disproportionate. In the past few weeks, I have had discussions with the government, who have been unable to provide any reason or basis for the suggested fee. The argument was that the SACAT fee should be more than the fee for a review by a valuer. I absolutely agree with this but completely disagree with how far it has gone.

I would have thought a more appropriate amount would be double the current fee for review by valuers; however, this is a matter for the government to determine should my motion be successful. Yesterday I received advice from the Attorney-General's office that, should this motion be successful, instead of the fees reverting to what they were—that is, $71 per application—there would be no fees collected by SACAT for the reviews. I am advised that this is because the fees I am seeking to disallow were made as new regulations. That is to say that the old fees were made under general regulations that were revoked and replaced with the new fees. Therefore, if this disallowance motion is successful, there is nothing to replace them. Of course, this is not something that I seek to achieve.

The Attorney-General's office also advised that all SACAT fees will be changed to take effect from 1 July and that they will be working to have new, lower fees ready for this change. If this is the case, I imagine that I will not be proceeding with my motion. Of course, time will tell, and I look forward to coming back to the chamber after 1 July to either progress with my disallowance motion or to withdraw it, having worked with the government to find a sensible solution to this issue.

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5 July 2018

Adjourned debate on motion of Hon. J.A. Darley:

That the regulations made under the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2013 concerning fees—general, made on 26 September 2017 and laid on the table of this council on 28 September 2017, be disallowed.

The Hon. J.A. DARLEY (17:56): I rise today to withdraw my motion and in doing so I want to update the house on progress that has been made on this matter. When I originally moved this motion, it was to disallow regulations that had been made in relation to SACAT fees for a number of services. The ones that concerned me the most were the fees which related to a SACAT review under the Valuation of Land Act.

Every year, the Valuer-General determines a valuation for every property in the state. If an owner or another stakeholder believes this valuation is incorrect, they can lodge an objection to the valuation. The Valuer-General may agree there has been a mistake and reduce the valuation or they may disagree and uphold the original valuation. If an original valuation is upheld, the owner can ask for a review by an independent valuer or by SACAT.

Before the new regulations were made, the application fee for a SACAT review was $71 for both individuals and corporations. The new regulations prescribed new fees of $765 for corporations and $545 for any other person. This was far too much of an increase and would be a barrier for many from exercising their right to a review. I have had discussions with the government throughout this process and they have advised that they have prescribed new regulations and that the new fees are now $250 for corporations and $200 for any other person. These fees are much more reasonable and I want to thank the government for working so cooperatively on this matter.

Notice of motion withdrawn.

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