Sydney property bubble to be sent to Cayman Islands

Saturday, April 8, 2017

"The NSW land titles registry's $190 million-a-year revenue stream could soon start flowing towards the Cayman Islands," the Sydney Morning Herald reported on April 3.

A Fairfax Media investigation found that “behind the newly created companies that may house Land and Property Information are an array of foreign players, a mysterious trustee, and business links to tax havens such as Bermuda, the Cayman Islands and the Isle of Man.”

The state government is set to announce the successful consortium that will operate Land and Property Information (LPI) — the currently publicly-owned Land Titles Office, which provides essential titling and registry services for NSW property-owners — for the next 35 years. The current LPI generates $190 million in revenue and makes $130 million in profit annually for the state treasury.

The state is expected to gain about $2 billion from the sale of the LPI, which means the state will be worse off within 15 years. Opposition to the sale is coming from community groups and peak bodies representing lawyers, surveyors and even developers, who all say the integrity of the state's world-class land titles system is at stake.

On March 28, a rally and march to state parliament was held to protest the sell-off. A broad network of organisations supported the rally, including the Law Society of NSW, Institute of Surveyors NSW, the Concerned Titles Group, LPI Staff Union, the Public Service Association of NSW and the Real Estate Institute of NSW.

Greens MP Justin Field said: "The Greens are calling on the NSW government to abandon the sale. The more we find out about the sale of this monopoly and essential service, the more opposition grows.

“The community is right to be concerned about increasing risk of fraud, misuse of personal data and increasing costs of property purchases as a result of the privatisation."

Field raised fears that costs will rise under a private operator, reducing access to public information, and the integrity of the records may be compromised.

"I've also heard of uneasiness around the privacy of household data once it is in private hands,” he said. “Will data be kept in Australia or on overseas servers? Will personal data be safe and exempt from sale?

"The NSW government should listen to the experts, LPI staff and the community and stop the sell-off of land titles."

Labor opposition finance spokesperson Clayton Barr told state parliament: "It is unthinkable that a state government in Australia would consider entering into a sale process that supports tax evasion."

But wait. Look on the bright side. If a substantial part of the proceeds of the investor-driven Sydney housing bubble disappear offshore to the Cayman Islands or some other tax haven, perhaps the bubble will burst and the price of housing will come down? Then first-home buyers will finally be able to afford to purchase a home.

Or maybe not. Perhaps that's just another "alternative fact" to be promoted by this neoliberal Coalition government and its backers in the conservative media.

The privatisation of LPI is just the latest in a litany of sales of public assets by pro-capitalist state and federal governments to their big-business masters in recent decades. It is certainly one of the most grotesque for some time, as it is opposed by 84% of the NSW population and almost every sector of society, except for the corporate and banking vampires.

Green Left Weekly campaigns strongly against the privatisation of the people's property. We argue for an end to the sell-offs and instead advocate the nationalisation of essential industries under community and workers' control, to be utilised for the good of the public and the environment.

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