I rise on behalf of the Liberal opposition to speak to this bill. The Liberal Party supports the general thrust of this measure but will be seeking some amendments. The member for Flinders and the member for Finniss have stated quite clearly the Liberal Party’s position on this legislation in the other place, so I will reduce my contribution. However, I wish to remind honourable members of why we are seeking some amendments. I have had a number of meetings with representatives of industry bodies who have had many good things to say about the bill and its general thrust. For the most part, they say that it is a step in the right direction, but they have also shared their reservations with us. Apart from new amendments dealing with the disclosure of advertising benefits, the opposition’s amendments are consistent with those moved by the Liberal Party in the other place, so members may be familiar with our position already.
Our first amendment deals with clause 17 and the fact that, in some smaller regional real estate offices, it is not possible always to have a registered agent available to supervise an office. Our amendment enables another suitable person to manage and supervise as a temporary measure in special circumstances. Amendment No. 2 deals with the registration of bidders. The current principle followed by auctioneers is to use best endeavours to register bidders prior to the commencement of an auction, and that principle is strongly supported by the opposition.
The Liberal Party supports the right of a person to remain anonymous prior to making their purchase at auction, as there are many perfectly legitimate reasons why some people may wish to do so. We share the concern of industry professionals, who fear that potential purchasers could collude with associates to disrupt an auction by registering during an auction, thus disrupting the process. We support the status quo and see no need to make any changes that we believe will affect the auction process. We share the concerns of industry that more auctions would be likely to fail if they were interrupted to register bidders.
Several of my amendments deal with the disclosure of advertising benefits. The opposition is particularly concerned about fairness and practicality and agrees with industry representatives that the real estate industry should not be singled out by the government and prevented from buying at wholesale and selling at retail. No other sector is subject to these restrictions. Industry representatives are also concerned that this legislation will be almost impossible to comply with.
The cost of a discrete advertisement under an agent’s banner comprises many elements, and these vary from day to day and week to week. It has been pointed out that there are too many variables, including the nature and extent of the discount, colour (as opposed to black and white), photography, copywriting, placement on page, size, and many other factors. In the unlikely case that agents could accurately identify and disclose the amount of benefit or discount, they would be forced to itemise and charge out for all the other discrete components of the advertising process. This would result in a significant administrative burden for small agencies, in particular, and increased costs, which will inevitably be passed on to consumers—in short, more bureaucratic red tape.
The opposition also supports multiple declared vendor bids permitted up to but not including the reserve. Our final amendments deal with this issue, as we see no harm in allowing the vendor to put in multiple bids and to drop out once the reserve is reached. I stress again `multiple vendor bids’, but they must be declared. This is supported by the fact that the Real Estate Institute has received no notice of complaints regarding vendor bids from the Office of Consumer and Business Affairs since the Auction Code of Conduct was introduced in 2003.
I place on record my thanks to a number of representatives from the industry who have put in considerable time to brief me and Liberal members regarding their concerns with the bill. They have put in a great deal of work and have articulated their concerns to us well; we share their views on many points. In particular, I thank the representatives of the Real Estate Institute of South Australia and the Society of Auctioneers and Appraisers. The briefings and background they provided to the opposition have been much appreciated. Separate briefings from concerned real estate agents have also been welcome, and they have been most enlightening. Regrettably, the government has opposed all the Liberal amendments in the lower house, but I am hopeful that honourable members will support those amendments in this place with the addition of our amendments dealing with advertising benefits.