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From the president: LIV answers call of duty

Every Issue

Cite as: (2009) 83(04) LIJ, p.4

The LIV successfully worked with other stakeholders to ensure the government's duties amendment bill was withdrawn from parliament.

Late last year the Victorian government announced major changes to the imposition and administration of the Duties Act 2000 with the introduction of the Duties Amendment Bill 2008 (Vic).

This Bill proposed major changes to the way leases are treated for duty assessment in Victoria, and other issues relating to the nature of definitions, such as beneficial and equitable ownership of property.

The LIV had many concerns about the broader structure of the Bill and its unintended consequences.

Most notably, it expressed its dissatisfaction at a failure by the Victorian government to fully and responsibly consult with it and other significant stakeholders.

Government claims to the "revenue sensitive" nature of the legislation did not fully reconcile with the LIV's longstanding relationship with other government agencies in regard to similar confidential legislative proposals. Moreover, the LIV was active in the consultation on the original Duties Bill with the same government.

Following the announcement of this Bill in late 2008, the LIV actively and unsuccessfully sought urgent consultation with the Victorian government.

Instead, it was referred to the State Revenue Office (SRO) which arranged for a late consultation forum with stakeholders in January this year.

Shortly after, the Victorian government announced a legislative "carve out" of some retirement village lease structures, although the detail was somewhat unclear and confusing.

This "carve out" was initially announced through a government press release. The LIV was not consulted about this amendment either.

With other stakeholders, the LIV continued to lobby government, Treasury and the SRO for more time to consult on this Bill, unfortunately to no avail.

The LIV's strongest opposition was to the nature of the government leases capture, changes in beneficial and equitable ownership definitions and changes to the liability period to duty assessment.

The LIV then successfully developed stronger professional relationships with other key stakeholders such as the Retirement Villages Association, Australian Bankers Association, Property Council of Australia and Taxation Institute of Australia, which all had concerns with the Bill.

As timing was vital to the overall lobby plan, the LIV was also mindful of the likely accelerated unobstructed passage of the Bill through the Lower House.

The government indicated it was not willing to entertain further amendments to the Bill in the Lower House and proceeded to sponsor its passage otherwise unchanged.

In accordance with the LIV's commitment to fully brief all members of the Parliament where requested, the LIV engaged in consultation with the Liberal/National Party, the Australian Greens and the Democratic Labor Party, which collectively hold the balance of power in the Upper House.

At the Upper House sitting on 10 March 2009, with the valued support of these parties, the Bill was withdrawn and further consultation required as a result of an Upper House amendment being passed.

This represented a significant win for our membership and the Victorian community.

It is a victory for engaging in open and transparent consultation with key stakeholders as regards important legislation, particularly in this current economic climate where legislation which affects revenue needs to be carefully managed by government. If it is not, then it can seriously risk and disengage business incentive.

The LIV now awaits the next phase of the legislative evolution of this Bill.

It is confident the Victorian government will now, with the authority of Parliament, actively engage and consult meaningfully with all key stakeholders on this important Bill to ensure there are no unintended consequences which could affect the Victorian community's most vulnerable.

The LIV is committed to representing its members and their clients through this consultation phase. Getting this Bill right is essential to business and community growth in Victoria.

I want to take a moment to thank our members for their amazing response to my request for volunteers following the horrific bushfires in February.

We received more than 500 responses to the request, with many of these volunteers subsequently advising victims of the fires in relation to a wide range of legal issues.

The high rate of response confirmed in my mind the culture among solicitors in this state of providing their services at no cost where and when the community needs their help.

Well done.

Danny Barlow
President, Law Institute of Victoria


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