Public Sector Review Magazine November 2017

Page 10

PRIVATISATION OF THE LANDS TITLES OFFICE IS BAD FOR SOUTH AUSTRALIA By Basil Kidd, Former Registrar General of South Australia Privatisation of the Lands Titles Office (LTO) is wrong for at least four reasons: • It doesn’t make commercial sense • The Torrens Title System is a very important part of our heritage • The integrity of the Title to our land is at risk • Privatisation will damage our international reputation

The LTO has been rightly described as a cash cow which, of course, is exactly why private sector interests want to get hold of it. The consortium that has won the privatisation contract has estimated that the rights it has bought have a Net Present Value greater than $1.605 billion. If they didn’t believe this, they wouldn’t have paid $1.605 billion for them. If they are correct, the government has denied itself (and, worse, future governments) the opportunity to earn very substantial revenues for many years.


Since the proposal was first announced, the Treasurer has held that the private sector is better placed to respond to changes in titling technology and opportunities for innovation in information product development. That just isn’t true. No-one knows the complex structure of the LTO information web and its interaction with other government information systems better than the staff of the LTO themselves. They have won international awards for innovation in the past and they have sent teams into at least seven overseas jurisdictions to my knowledge, to help with

The Lands Titles Office is the operational centrepiece of the Torrens System.

development of titles systems. The LTO simply has to be resourced appropriately to achieve these outcomes.

the Lands Titles Office on the other. It is the responsibility of LTO staff to ensure that the Title to each individual parcel of land reflects all of the issues which affect it. Their skills enable anyone dealing with land to be confident that the Title is a complete record of interests in the land to which it refers.

The Torrens System of Title Registration was developed in South Australia and introduced to the world by Robert Richard Torrens in 1858. Torrens was Premier of South Australia and resigned from that position to become the first Registrar General. Since then, the system has been implemented in many jurisdictions worldwide. South Australia has a very high profile in the international land information community.

Public Sector Review Magazine | November 2017

Secure title to land doesn’t attract the attention of ordinary South Australians in the same way as other infrastructure issues like electricity, roads and water. Most people take it for granted. They are able to do so because of the operation of the Torrens System. Basically, the success of the system rests on a partnership between professional surveyors, conveyancers, solicitors and valuers on the one hand and the staff of

The risk is that we will see a reduction in the rigour of these checking processes as the commercial operator cuts staff in the pursuit of profit. An error in the Title might not emerge for many years but when it does, it can have devastating and