Owners Corporation Amendment Bill 2013

Mr CARROLL (Niddrie) — It is a pleasure to rise to continue my contribution to the debate on the Owners Corporations Amendment Bill 2013. As I was saying earlier, in 2003 the Bracks government’s Minister for Consumer Affairs, the Honourable John Lenders, a member for Southern Metropolitan Region in the other place, undertook a review in an effort to better set the policy agenda for owners corporations. As the current marketplace and demographics show, there are now more single‑person households, more two‑person households, more owners corporations and more bodies corporate — all these have become much more common.

The Bracks government’s review received some 200 public submissions, and the themes that came out during the review included a need for better access to dispute resolution; clearer rights, duties and responsibilities of members of bodies corporate; and sufficient powers and flexibility to enable body corporates and body corporate members to operate
effectively. Most submissions highlighted the need for improved financial management and protection of body corporate funds, which is what the government’s legislation goes to the heart of, and that is why opposition members are supporting this legislation. This reform is about making sure that the funds of bodies corporate are spent wisely and ensuring that the people who contribute to the funds know exactly where and how their money is being spent.

I have been a renter myself in the past, so I know that body corporate meetings can be quite fiery affairs, so dispute resolution is an important initiative in this area. The previous government addressed issues of dispute resolution and required owners corporations to have internal dispute resolution mechanisms. If that did not work, then consumers had the option of going to Consumer Affairs Victoria and, finally, to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

Some 1000 people are employed full time in Victoria in the management of bodies corporate. I believe today’s legislation will help them in terms of managing body corporate funds and deciding how best to spend them. However, we must remember that the Mashane case, which I spoke about earlier, distinguished between not only how body corporate funds are collected but also how they are spent. It is important that contributors to body corporate funds know how their money is being spent, whether levies are being used for repairs and whether funds are being spent on common property or an individual’s property.

Essentially I believe the government’s legislation is about moving with the times. I think this legislation builds upon the Bracks government’s reforms in this area, which were undertaken by the then Minister for Consumer Affairs. This legislation will help transform and bring into the 21st century how bodies corporate and owners corporations operate. On that note I commend the bill to the house.

 Hansard, Thursday 28 November, 2013