Not a revolution in property investment

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Following my last post about fractionalised land title on blockchain, I’ve been thinking through a number of additional unanswered questions about the proposal. Based on responses and discussions on Twitter, it seems clear that there is no use case for blockchain in this context even though it is possible to roll it out.

Assuming it is rolled out – and it was an announcement by a South Australian government minister that kicked this off – there are myriad issues, I think, with the scheme. This post works through the nature of what is being sold. Is it land? Or something else?

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Fractionalised land title a furphy?

Image result for bricksThe South Australian government has announced the launch of a new system of property investment to be rolled out in Adelaide’s two new residential towers. The system involves ‘fractionalising’ the property into ‘bricklets’ and establishing a market for the bricklets via blockchain technology. According to the press release bricklet owners will have their interest recorded on the blockchain for ‘credibility and trust in the audit trail’. Their interest will also be automatically added to the title.

For readers who know anything about land title, or anything about blockchain, this scheme raises a lot of questions. In this post I try to understand how this proposal would work. Continue reading

Court orders sperm removal from deceased

In what is an increasingly common circumstance, in April 2015 Burns J of the Supreme Court of Queensland granted an application by a Ms Patteson for the removal of her deceased fiance’s testes and sperm. The judgment was made ex tempore – on the spot – in light of the urgent nature of the case. The applicant’s fiance had, sadly, died the night before the judgment. For sperm of a deceased man to remain viable, they must be harvested and properly stored within 24 hours of death. The judge had to decide the matter immediately.

In such urgent applications, it is not the court’s role to approve the use of the sperm for fertilisation. The applicant must make a further application to use the sperm. Burns J made it clear that the court’s jurisdiction in this case extended only to approval of the removal of the testes and sperm. Ms Patteson, he said, could return to the court ‘after mature reflection’ to make an application for the use of the sperm for the purpose of fertilisation.

While far from the first such judgment, there is one aspect that has arisen before and that prompts some thinking about the basis on which such judgments are made. In doing so, no judgment is made of the applicant or her circumstances, which should at all times be respected. On the contrary, the issues underlying such judgments speak to the system and how the law should consider the body of a deceased.

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Public activities in reserves: can you photograph Barangaroo?

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It’s usual to require a permit for disruptive activity in a public reserve

The case of the photographer being banned from photographing Sydney’s foreshore reserve, Barangaroo, has intrigued me. The story is that landscape photographer Ken Duncan was taking photos of landscape work at the parkland, when he was stopped by rangers. He was told that as he had a tripod, his work was commercial and therefore not permitted without a permit. Duncan was in fact taking the photos for friends, for no charge. However it appears that taking photos is itself prohibited activity in the reserve.

This raises some interesting questions.

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Mining proposal sets new benchmark of Indigenous exclusion

Screen Shot 2015-11-27 at 9.05.13 pmMining company Adani wishes to build an airport, power station and accommodation for its Carmichael mine on leasehold land it owns in central Queensland. ABC now reports that the Queensland Coordinator-General has proposed that the government convert Adani’s leasehold land into freehold land. The effect of this conversion would be to extinguish native title over the land, held by the Wangan and Jabilingou people. While the government has extinguished native title this way in the past, this is apparently the first time that it will be done without the agreement of the traditional owners.

This move calls into question the Queensland government’s commitment to human rights – notably the right to free, prior and informed consent. This post explores the implications of this decision, and the precedent it sets for land dealings – notably against the backdrop of the pro-development approach of the Northern Development White Paper.

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Freehold tenure: it’s no panacea for the north

Roo at UndaraThe contemporary discourse around land tenure in Queensland – and more widely in Northern Australia – is about facilitating economic development (or sometimes ‘growth’). Of little interest in most metropolitan areas, land tenure is of great interest to pastoralists and Indigenous Australians, both of which groups hold tenures ‘less than freehold’. It is also of great interest to government, both state and federal, seeking to promote economic development.

One of the recurrent themes in economic development in the north is the need for ‘secure tradeable’ interests in land. This concept is implicit in the recent Queensland reforms allowing holders of Indigenous tenures to ‘freehold’ their land. The cost of this is extinguishment of native title, albeit in consultation with traditional owners. The implied benefit is the ability to use land as collateral for investment.

This post challenges the received wisdom of freehold as the gold standard of land tenure. I suggest that we should be thinking more creatively about tenure and economic development in the north, in particular respecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander interests in land.

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Northern Australia development: a stocktake of land tenure issues

Cobbold GorgeThe Commonwealth government recently released its White Paper on Developing Northern Australia (‘White Paper’). The White Paper identifies land tenure as a key component of development in the north. It identifies challenges associated with land tenure, and proposes some tentative solutions, although in the main the action plan for land promotes undertaking pilot schemes rather than concrete plans.

This post outlines the land tenure ‘challenges’ identified in the White Paper, the opportunities that might arise and some of the potential impacts. In particular, I am interested in how the language around land tenure might advance or affect social and environmental objectives in northern Australia.

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