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Sale of the Lands Titles Office

Radio Broadcast

John Darley, Advance SA MLC (5AA 10.10-10.19) Sale of the Lands Titles Office

(Byner: Last year the then Labor Government sold the state’s Lands Services for the sum of $1.605 billion. This privatisation included the sale of the Lands Titles Office and the State Valuation Office. The Valuer-General used to determine a value for every property in South Australia. The vast majority of rates and taxes are based on these property values. The job of determining an annual value on property has now gone into the hands of a private company which has no connection whatsoever to the democratic process. Essentially it’s putting the power of taxation, which has always been in the hands of the government elected by the people ... under the supervision of Parliament into the hands of a private company. Now there is some question as to whether this is even constitutional, but the previous government did not just sell the Lands Titles Office but they’ve effectively handed over the calculation of their taxation base to a private company albeit under the supervision of the Valuer-General. Now you’ll get to hear why that’s terribly questionable because the Valuer-General has already flagged that some properties my increase by up to 100% next year. This will result in increased rates and taxes. The previous government never disclosed this at any stage during discussions about the privatisation. Well done Tom, well done. Details about the privatisation have been very difficult to obtain. Now here’s something else: John Darley has been asking for policies and KPIs ... for over six months and was told a couple of weeks ago that they had yet to be finalised, even though the private company has been doing the job for over 12 months. How can we be confident that they are doing the right thing when there is no transparency about what they are doing? John Darley, this is outrageous.)

It’s not very clear cut, that is for sure Leon ... you’re quite correct ... in the transaction the Valuer-General is to set the policies and the KPIs. I’ve tried on two occasions with the Budget & Finance Committee to get the details of these, first of all from the Department of Treasury and Finance and secondly from the Department of Transport. I finally got the KPIs and these are unbelievable ... they bear no relation to the deal at all ... I’d be absolutely amazed if the Valuer-General had anything to do with the setting up of these KPIs.

(Byner: Who wrote them?)

Who knows.

(Byner: Will they tell you who wrote them?)

I haven’t asked that question yet.

(Byner: You should.)

Yeah I know. The position is that obviously whoever wrote them didn’t have any understanding of..

(Byner: It was lawyers who wrote them but the question is, who was paying them?)

Well it would have been the Land Services SA, the private company I would say because ... I cannot see that the ... South Australian Valuer-General had anything to do with these ... the policy direction, and these are directions to the private company how they’re to do the job, are still not even completed at this stage. It is unbelievable. Now on top of that you’ve heard about the revaluation initiative that the previous Valuer-General embarked on in 2016/17 ... there was a budget of $15.45 million ... they spent all bar $12.2 million and then the previous government just handed the $12.2 million straight to Land Services SA, the private company.

(Byner: Why? What did they do to get that?)

For them to finish off the job because they’re responsible for providing valuations they were given the $12.2 million as well on top of it. Now as you quite rightly say we were advised by the previous Valuer-General that some valuations, particularly in the City of Adelaide, could increase by 100% and I would advise anyone whose valuation increased by more than 10% in the last 12 months to object.

(Byner: Well, what does Rob Lucas think of this and can of this be reversed?)

No, I’ve spoken to Rob Lucas about it and unfortunately the current government has no ability to intervene in this at all, even to get back the $12.2 million ... the situation is clearly with the previous government and the current Liberal Government just have to put up with it and the public have to put up with it as well. So that’s why we need to be fairly vigilant and watch what goes on here ... apparently the Valuer-General has to report any areas where the private company hasn’t performed ... at the end of 12 months ... I’ll shortly be asking for details of that report. My tip is there is no report.

(Byner: Goodness gracious. Now I just need to clarify something. The Parliament didn’t give this sale the go ahead it was done by the Government, it was an executive decision, is that right?)

Exactly, yes exactly.

(Byner: Well now you see first of all I don’t see how that can be legal because the Land Services entity belongs to the people of SA in trust by the Government; it is not theirs to sell or lease. How did they get away with that?)

Well they did and I think they did exactly the same with the Motor Accident Commission.

(Byner: Yes I know they did, but you see I have an issue here that it is the Parliament that governs the state not executive government on matters like this ... where they were not asked.)

Well certainly the Valuer-General is responsible for all valuations for rating and taxing in the state, but the Valuer-General has got to buy that service in from Land Services SA, which is a private organisation ... then accord with these Key Performance Indicators.

(Byner: But if they haven’t finished them yet how..)

Oh well the policies haven’t been—well the point is how is the private company operating if they haven’t had any direction from the Valuer-General as to what has to be done and how it’s to be done?

(Byner: John, you’ll keep us in the loop on this, won’t you?)

I certainly will.

(Byner: Thank you. Before you go John of Henley Beach has got a question. Hi John.)

(Caller John: ... just a question ... with that pretty bad fire that happened overnight where the house was virtually destroyed ... I’m assuming that next door was very close ... on the boundary line ... like they’re all happening now ... I think there’s going to be a bit of a change in insurance situations where you’ve got those sorts of situations where they’re house to house on the boundary because what happens to the person next door to that fire where they receive damage as well?)

(Byner: Well you see we’re building houses very close to each other ... this means that the fire risk of spread is greater ... that is going to impact no doubt on people who insure their properties, no question about it ... the Government won’t take any responsibility for that John; it will be deemed as an issue for the property owner. That’s the way I’d read it John [Darley], what do you say?)

It would be a legal matter between the two parties ... hopefully they’re both insured, but at the end of the day the adjoining property will be a legal matter ... to deal with the owner whose property started the fire.

(Byner: All right, you keep your eye on this business because as far as I’m concerned I do not understand how a Labor Government would give to—I mean they’ve made the big deal about privatisation ... but this kind of sell off is just, I’d call it despicable. I’m sorry, I can’t find another word for it and they did it to get the maximum price - $1.605 billion. More to come.)