Media Release - Privatising Land Services Group - a risk to consumers

21 December 2016


The Law Society has serious concerns that a one-off injection of cash to the State Government from the sale of its Land Services Group will not compensate for the potential long-term detrimental impact on the community.

The Government recently opened the tendering process, with expressions of interest due by January 13, but has yet to adequately explain how consumers and their sensitive data will be protected when the service is commercialised. 

The Government’s Land Services Group is one of the State’s most important assets and is one of the most efficient and lean government-run agencies in the State. It also holds a large volume of sensitive personal data relating to property titles.

The Law Society is concerned that the privatisation of these services could compromise the security of this data. The Government has not provided sufficient information about how such sensitive data would be safeguarded against exploitation for corrupt or fraudulent purposes.

“A land title is probably the most valuable asset a family holds. Public confidence in the system is critical,” Law Society President David Caruso said.  “A secure land registration system is also essential to the economy of the State.”

“If we are to learn the lessons of history, we should be wary of selling off assets where a private entity will hold a monopoly. All too often, this results in higher costs to consumers as private operators are driven by profit rather than by serving the best interests of the community.”

“The question must be asked: would a private entity ensure the core services of the Land Services Group are maintained and improved, or could they be compromised in favour of diverting more resources into unregulated, profit driven services?”  

“Also, how effective are Government attempts to control fees for services provided by an external party? Are higher consumer costs and fees inevitable?” 

“The Lands Titles Office has highly-trained, knowledgeable staff with the technical expertise required to manage transactions which can often be incredibly complex. We are concerned that, in an effort to reduce overheads, much of this essential expertise will be lost.”

“The Land Services Group is one of the few remaining jewels in the State’s asset portfolio. It is innovative, efficient, secure and delivers high quality services to users, as well as a handsome dividend to the State. It has recently undergone a major system upgrade to accommodate the introduction of electronic conveyancing, the biggest change to property transactions in more than 150 years.” 

“The Government has failed to make a compelling case for placing the Land Services Group in private hands, let alone offering a 40-year contract to the successful bidder,” Mr Caruso said. “With technology and innovation evolving rapidly, it is likely the contract will become obsolete long before the end of that period. This would give the private entity considerable bargaining power to re-negotiate terms, likely at huge cost to the taxpayer.”

Read the Law Society’s full submission.


Media contact: Michael Esposito 0422 073 146 

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