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So now we have a new minister of Fair Trading – a position we have, in the past, called a “training wheel” ministry.
If Fair Trading Ministers are any good, they usually get moved on to something more prestigious; if they’re rubbish, they keep their heads down until they’re replaced by another hopeful.
Is there any reason to expect anything different from the (probable) new Liberal minister Greg Aplin? Well, he seemed to have a grasp of the issues in Opposition and if this government really is about integrity, transparency and looking after ordinary people, we might hope for a radical overhaul of strata law.
Let’s not pre-judge but let’s not hold our collective breath either.
If Minister Aplin really wants to improve matters, the first thing he should do is find a new home for Strata. For Pete’s sake, why are we ruled by the same department that deals in broken toasters and dangerous toys?
High rise strata units are the fastest-growing housing sector, they are the choice of the majority of first-time (i.e. inexperienced) home owners and they are the biggest single investment most people will ever make.
But they have less real consumer protection – and by ‘real’ I mean effective and achievable – than the purchasers of a badly made cuddly toy.
So let’s move it into Planning or Housing; anywhere, really, away from the paper-shufflers of Fair Trading and the Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal.
Secondly, there should be a legal obligation on Executive Committees and Owners Corporations to enforce their by-laws, as happens in Victoria and Queensland.
If owners don’t like their by-laws, they can change them. But there is so much frustration among strata residents whose by-laws offer them protection but whose ECs think keeping the peace means doing nothing.
Finally, we need new building defects to be assessed by independent surveyors reporting to the government. Expecting ordinary owners to battle multinational developers through the Supreme Court just to get what they paid for is like telling the smallest kids in school to fight the bullies to get their lunch money back.
There’s nothing ‘fair’ about that, Minister.
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