March 2, 2017  |  second reading speech

Consumer Acts Amendment Bill 2016

Mr CARROLL (Niddrie) — It is my pleasure to rise and speak on the Consumer Acts Amendment Bill 2016, a very broad ranging piece of legislation dealing with some of the pertinent issues in our community in relation to consumer law, in particular the rise of technology and how as a government you get the balance right between privacy and safety. It is a very broad piece of legislation dealing with the Motor Car Traders Act 1986 and the Conveyancers Act 2006, and it also makes sure the director of Consumer Affairs Victoria has the utmost powers needed right here and right now.

This bill does illustrate the government’s commitment to improving and updating consumer protection in Victoria. A range of acts are going to be amended to really clarify the requirements and update the references in the legislation. The Associations Incorporation Reform Act 2012 will be made simpler, with red tape reduced and duplicated reporting requirements for a range of not‑for‑profit incorporated associations dealt with. Inserted into the act will be a discretion for the responsible minister by order of a published gazette to exempt an incorporated association or a class of incorporated associations from one or more annual reporting requirements under the act.

This bill will also amend the act to authorise the registrar to enter into an appropriate information‑sharing arrangement with other regulators. The bill does make a number of amendments to entry and inspection powers under the Associations Incorporation Reform Act to align them with the equivalent provisions in the Australian Consumer Law and Fair Trading Act 2012.

When I was reading this legislation what I thought was most interesting was that in the 21st century we are very much seeing the cannibalisation of newspapers, but we are also seeing the cannibalisation of IT departments. More and more information is being shared in the cloud, and we are seeing the growth of cloud computing in Victoria and indeed Australia wide. I know the commonwealth government and many state governments are trying to attract the best and brightest cloud computing centres to Victoria. I know former Premier Brumby was very passionate about Ballarat becoming a cloud computing destination. He used to call it Silicon Gully.

This legislation does address that issue of the growth of cloud computing, and it will ensure that search warrant provisions are protected and that evidence, including documents and business records, located on particular servers can be accessed for the right reasons.

I want to just commend, if I can, the Department of Justice and Regulation for their work in bringing this legislation forward. It is very wideranging, it is all encompassing and it is very important legislation too. Often with consumer affairs legislation you are dealing with toys and you are dealing with all sorts of issues, but it does go to the heart of why we need protections embedded within the act to ensure our consumer affairs legislation is fit for the 21st century.

As I need to do as the Parliamentary Secretary for Justice, I was reading one of my copies of the Law Institute Journal just the other day on ‘Privacy in the digital age’. The member for Hawthorn was here; he has probably got the same edition himself. It did highlight — and I think it is very important — the juncture between consumer affairs legislation and privacy law. You have had WikiLeaks, which exposed among other things some of the harsh realities of war, and closer to home we have had invasions of privacy. We also through means bearing on privacy tragically saw CCTV footage capture Jill Meagher’s murderer. That footage was very critical and very important to that case.

But with the rapidly evolving issue of technology it is important that our consumer affairs legislation is up to date. As we know, with the dominance of social media it is important that our consumer affairs legislation does remain up to date, but our privacy laws and consumer affairs legislation are dealing with 21st‑century issues in terms of law and law enforcement. We are dealing with cloud computing, access to servers and access to information that is in the cloud to ensure that our justice system does operate as effectively as it needs to.

I was highlighting contemporary business practices and the shift to electronic documentation storage on the internet, and this legislation does go a long way to addressing these developments. The search warrant provisions of the act will be amended, consistent with the amendments to the Australian Consumer Law and Fair Trading Act to enable a warrant to be issued that will authorise an inspector to access electronic material via any computer or electronic device located on the premises and to require any necessary assistance to do so, whether it be login details, passwords or any relevant software that is encrypted, to be made available to whoever might be doing the inspection at the premises.

The bill makes minor amendments to the Conveyancers Act to insert a general offence provision, consistent with other licensing acts in the consumer affairs portfolio, for failing to comply with a requirement of an inspector or the director of consumer affairs under the enforcements in part 8 of the act. We have seen the growth in conveyancing. Both sides of the chamber have made laws in relation to electronic conveyancing. It has been a big growth area, particularly with the property boom and more and more density. This has been an issue for our own legislation in terms of the Conveyancers Act needing to be amended.

There is a lot of reform in relation to the Motor Car Traders Act to enable licensed motor vehicle traders to sell a motor vehicle subject to a security interest registered on the national Personal Property Securities Register in favour of the sheriff of Victoria where the trader has been engaged by the sheriff to sell that vehicle, notwithstanding the registration of any other security interest subsequent to that of the sheriff. The sheriff, upon seizing a motor car pursuant to a court order in satisfaction of a judgement debt, registers its right to sell the car on the Personal Property Securities Register under the commonwealth Personal Property Securities Act 2009. The sheriff relies on this registered interest to sell the car and commonly engages the licensed motor car trader to sell the vehicle on its behalf. Where the vehicle is sold the sheriff is entitled to satisfy the debt owing with the proceeds of sale subject to the sheriff’s position as a priority creditor.

There you have it — the Conveyancers Act 2006, the Motor Car Traders Act 1986, and also the Second‑Hand Dealers and Pawnbrokers Act 1989 as well as the legislative amendments in relation to Australian Consumer Law, in particular in relation to the requirement to enter premises for information‑sharing arrangements with other jurisdictions and our law enforcement agencies. It just shows you the size of this legislation.

There are also, though, with this legislation, important reforms in relation to the Sale of Land Act 1962, which goes back to the 1960s. We all know that purchasing a home is well and truly for most people — 99.9 per cent of the population — the biggest and possibly the most stressful transaction they will ever incur. There are some arrangements to the cooling‑off period in relation to the number of business days after a purchaser has signed a contract. Section 31(3) of the Sale of Land Act currently provides that a cooling‑off notice:

shall be given to the vendor or his —

or her —

agent or left at the address for service of the vendor specified in the contract …

It has long been standard industry practice that where a vendor has engaged an estate agent to act on their behalf in the sale of land, the estate agent can accept service on behalf of the vendor. This bill will amend section 31 of the Sale of Land Act to expressly include reference to the vendor’s estate agent. It is very much an important reform to remove any uncertainty about the service of the vendor’s estate agent and will accord very much with interstate practice and ensure that our Sale of Land Act, in particular in relation to the cooling‑off period, is dealt with as in other jurisdictions.

Finally, I know the Minister for Veterans spoke very early on this legislation. He is very proud of the work that gets done under the patriotic funds under his responsibility under the Veterans Act 2005. Essentially this bill will update it to support a wider range of ex‑service personnel and their dependants than is currently the case, and will give the director of Consumer Affairs Victoria the power to approve an amendment to adopt a new trust deed for a patriotic fund where the objects and purposes of the new deed or amended deed are generally consistent with the purposes of a patriotic fund as specified in section 23 of the act. I commend the bill to the house.