An article in the legal affairs section of the Oz on Friday stated that the Australian Government had pulled out of a national e-conveyancing system because, basically, the States couldn't get along.
A first question is whether we do need a national system rather than state based ones given that property law (and title) is a state based concern. I think there are two standout reasons. The first is that we'd like to see a system progress of national registration for lawyers rather than State based. That would seem to suggest that where possible the processes should be aligned.
The second is that we'd like to think that as we move down the path of e-applications that we could do things on a national basis. After all the same answers could be applied to e-health record systems, that health professionals are registered by states and all the health care infrastructure is run by states.
E-conveyancing would have to seem pretty simple compared to e-health. Does this mean there is no hope for developing the kinds of online transaction systems we'd like to see underpin the Digital Economy.
But there is another reason why the failure to progress an e-conyenacing system should be of concern, that is the apparent fact that we have no idea in Australia where people are. That is perhaps a bit unfair - there is a product pu ogether by a Commonwealth/State owned company PSMA called G-NAF which is the authorative list of addresses and includes the "geo-coding" of those addresses.
However, it appears that there are still deficiencies. At least one attempt to map G-NAF addresses to Telstra Exchange Serving Areas concluded that twenty or more exchanges served no addresses. Further the data file doesn't seem to include any particular attributes to the addresses (note: it does appear that provision is made for the inclusion of some such information).
What seems to be the obvious "missing" in all this is the logic of linking the G-NAF to the titles records. A land title should correspond in some way to a property location. The land title might be a strata plan and include multiple addresses. The land title might be a very extensive area and would not geographically locate the premises on the site. But surely we can do better in generating the definitive list of addresses for the country than G-NAF and surely a link to land title records in the e-conveyancng system would be one way to do so. (I note that the G-NAF is supposedly constructed using land title records as well).
There is one depressing feature about the whole operation of PSMA. On its website it refers to its position as not competing with private sector. This is the wrong focus. It should be seeking to do the things that are best done by Government and making its data available cheaply and readily to all users - be that direct end-users or value-adding middlemen.
The whole issue is, of course, also relevant to the question of the NBN. The discussion paper on greenfield estates also poses a question about how progress on delivering FTTP in greenfield estates would best be reported and monitored. The simple answer is that the data needs to be incorporated as an attribute of properties within G-NAF - more correctly as Metadata within GNAF. Unfortunately it does not appear that the telecommunications infrastructure to a premise has been included in G-NAF to date - though there is provision for geocoding a meter box. This is perhaps reflective of the position of telecommunications as the only service that is actually delivered by the Australian rather than a State Government.