Micro economic reforms – supporting Queensland businesses, not for profit organisations and individuals
Fundamental legal structures underpin a vibrant and efficient economic system. As Queensland deals with the COVID-19 pandemic, it is critical that everyone participating in the economy is supported to ensure a successful and speedy economic and social recovery.
QLS and its members have identified the following micro-economic reforms which will make a significant positive difference to doing business in Queensland by modernising document execution, improving transaction processes, streamlining regulation, supporting consumers and encouraging investment in Queensland.
QLS calls for a commitment to:
- Maintaining the public ownership of the Queensland Titles Registry to ensure the security of land ownership registration for all Queenslanders.
- A comprehensive and well-resourced review of the Justices Act 1886, encompassing consultation with a wide range of stakeholders and involving legal practitioners. This is essential to creating a modern criminal justice system that promotes the rule of law, provides certainty for the community about their rights and responsibilities and permits the Courts to operate in a more efficient and technology inclusive manner.
- Working with stakeholders, including QLS, to evaluate the measures introduced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that those which have a lasting benefit for the community are retained and implemented on a permanent basis.
- Facilitate the use of electronic signatures by corporations and individuals by updating the Property Law Act 1974 requirements for signing documents including maintaining the reforms introduced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Implement the seller disclosure framework as proposed in the recommendations of the Commercial and Property Law Research Centre of the Queensland University of Technology in its paper, Final report: Seller Disclosure in Queensland.
- Release a draft of a modernised Property Law Act, which will ultimately replace the Property Law Act 1974, for community and stakeholder consultation based on the reforms recommended by the Commercial and Property Law Research Centre of the Queensland University of Technology in the extensively researched paper, Final report: Property Law Act 1974.
- Implement a system to enable subscribers to an electronic conveyancing platform to pay transfer duty directly to the Office of State Revenue when parties to a transaction elect to settle the transaction by way of an electronic conveyancing platform.
- Make a reference to the Queensland Law Reform Commission to investigate the law relating to powers of attorney generally, including enduring powers of attorney and general powers of attorney. General powers of attorney are less regulated than enduring powers of attorney and can be used as tools for financial abuse.
- Reform the duty position in Queensland:
- to reflect the position in most other Australian states, so that duty is not payable on non-land business asset transfers;
- to abolish all duty payable on the restructure of a business where the beneficial ownership of the entity does not change, such as the restructure of a partnership or individual owner to a corporate structure;
- reform the Duties Act 2001 to ensure that primary production businesses can be passed from one generation to the next with access to appropriate transfer duty concessions, particularly by ensuring that businesses that are operated by family-owned companies and trusts (rather than by individuals) qualify for the exemption;
- provide a specific exemption to the ‘sole use’ test in section 53 of the Land Tax Act 2010 for carbon farming activities that may be conducted on primary production land to encourage such carbon farming projects
- remove the ownership criteria that limits the availability of the primary production land tax exemption in section 53 of the Land Tax Act 2010, such that the exemption is a ‘use only’ test as it is in NSW;
- clarify the application of the land tax surcharge (and the ex-gratia relief from that surcharge) to foreign-owned land used for primary production to encourage appropriate investment in Queensland.
- Reduce compliance obligations on charities and not-for-profits by working with the Commonwealth to progress a nationally-consistent approach to fund-raising regulation across Australia, as recommended by the Commonwealth Select Committee on Charity Fundraising in the 21st Century in its report, Charity Fundraising in the 21st Century – Senate Committee Report (14 February 2019).
- The office of the Attorney-General being active in the exercise of the role and function of the Attorney to protect charitable assets when material mis-application of charitable assets is in question. To this end a commitment is also sought that in the next term of government:
- the office of the Attorney-General will work actively and co-operatively with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission in the preservation of charitable assets; and
- consideration be given to the office of the Attorney-General adopting a named function of ‘State Commissioner of Charities’ (or other similar name) to aid in public trust and confidence in charities and to demonstrate that the protection and preservation of charitable assets is an inherent role of the Attorney.
- A review of the standard Queensland Government contracts typically used when engaging community organisations, including charities and not-for-profit organisations, to deliver services. The review must:
- address opportunities for standardising and simplifying the documentation, including consistency with the equivalent Commonwealth documentation;
- have regard to the unfair contracts framework, particularly when dealing with risks; and
- consider the introduction of model contracting rules, similar to the model litigant rules which have been promulgated by government.
- Release an updated consultation draft of the Trusts Act for consultation with stakeholders with a view to drafting and passing a modern, fit-for-purpose Trusts Act within the next term of the government. A commitment is sought that the consultation draft will:
- re-consider the reforms recommended by the Queensland Law Reform Commission in its report, A Review of the Trusts Act 1973 (Qld) (published June 2013), as the report was premised on the anticipated abolition, at the time, of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission and the recommendations are based on assumptions that are now out of date; and
- consider conferring standing to the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission to make an application in State courts to assist the Attorney-General in the Attorney’s role in the preservation of charitable trust assets. Often the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission will have undertaken significant investigation and evidence-gathering before submitting a brief to the Attorney.
- An academic or subject matter expert review of the Succession Act 1981 with a view to publishing a discussion paper for stakeholder consultation that scopes a modern, accessible and efficient legislative framework.