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Authorised by Jay Suvaal, Country Labor Party, 9/377 Sussex Street, Sydney NSW 2000

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Retail Leases Amendment (Review) Bill 2016

February 15, 2017

 

 

I lead for the Opposition on the Retail Leases Amendment (Review) Bill 2016. At the outset I will highlight the Opposition's concern at the lack of consideration the Government has given to key stakeholders in this legislation. After three years of consultation, negotiation and debate on this bill stakeholders were ambushed on 8 November when the Minister came into this place and dumped this legislation before the House. Many of them were preparing for the busiest six weeks of the trading year and they suddenly had to prepare briefings on a bill that frankly many never thought would see the light of day. Then after Christmas came sales and back-to-school purchases and, finally, Valentine's Day yesterday.

 

The Deputy Premier has apologised for the late notice but I find it hard to accept his commitment that this will not happen again, as it appears that this newest incarnation of the Liberal-Nationals Government in New South Wales is still not showing retailers and shopping centres the love they deserve by again commencing debate on this legislation with just one day's notice. Indeed, as late as last night stakeholders contacted me concerned that they only now have time to fully consider the legislation, which makes more than 50 amendments to the Act. The Deputy Premier needs to learn that his actions must speaker louder than his words and whilst he might speak of supporting small businesses, he actually has to walk the talk.

 

Like the Deputy Premier and Minister for Small Business, I have too have acted, and I continue to act in various capacities, as lessor and lessee of various retail businesses. We both have a lived experience in this area, which is good for the business community of this State. Further, Labor and the leader of The Nationals have made a commitment to act in a bipartisan manner in relation to this legislation, given the extraordinary length of time it has taken the Government to get it to this place. However, that does not mean I will not raise the issues of the many stakeholders with whom I have consulted about this bill. As a member of the Opposition I will continue to advocate for better legislation as it affects all members of our community and, particularly in my role as shadow Minister for Small Business, as it affects the business community.

 

With the length of time this legislation has taken to get here, we could have expected great legislation, with great protections for small businesses and retailers, and something that balanced the risk properly between all parties, because small business in this State deserves much better. In fact, contrary to the mythology promulgated around this place by members on the other side of the House, it is the Labor Party that has really understood the needs of small business in this State, and Labor has fought to have a level playing field for mum-and-dad small businesses to ensure they are not cannibalised by large multinational corporations.

 

Though the Minister applauded his predecessor the Hon. Ray Chappell, in fact, it was the late Hon. Bryan Vaughan as shadow Minister for Small Business, Industrial Development and Tourism and Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council who was instrumental in forcing the then Fahey Government into introducing the Retail Leases Act 1994 to protect small businesses from "unconscionable conduct" or "misleading and deceptive conduct" by landlords. Without Bryan Vaughan's tenacity to change the leasing culture and provide some protection for retailer tenants, the Act would not have come into being. The 1994 New South Wales legislation became model legislation for other States, and significantly changed practices in the leasing market, which had displayed cavalier attitudes to tenants with no respect for their contribution to the economic wealth of shopping centres, while they made claims about rent that were often never substantiated. The legislation changed the culture significantly, addressing the imbalance of sales and rental knowledge between tenants and their landlords.

 

I remember many years ago, in one of my first jobs working for a small family jeweller, seeing the inequity of how they were treated. They were a unique and wonderful boutique jeweller, that had been operating for many, many years, which generations of families had gone to in order to purchase wedding and engagement rings from all over the city. However, they paid far more per square metre of floor space than large national department stores because they were not seen as an anchor tenant in the shopping centre—in other words, they apparently did not attract customers to the centre. The travesty of this kind of bean-counting thinking was proved so wrong when indeed just last year, during a redevelopment of the centre this particular business was operating in, they were offered wholly unsuitable space and so decided to close down their store.

 

Over the next three months they had queues out the door of the shop of customers from all over Australia who wanted one last purchase of the beautiful jewellery they had for sale. It is often these small boutique retailers and small businesses that are the main attraction for shoppers, who are sometimes critical of the generic nature of shopping centres. Being just one small retail family business, even after having operated for three generations, this business just did not have the bargaining power to change the terms of their lease, or ensure they were given appropriate space during renovations—an issue raised with me by many stakeholders.

 

So in 2017, some 23 years after the release of the initial legislation, what has changed in the relationship between retailers and shopping centre owners? Is it still a battle of David and Goliath? Do we still know which side is Goliath and which is David? The advent of the internet, and its capacity to change the way we live, work and shop, has been a fundamental disruptor to the retail industry. Retail small businesses, as the ultimate entrepreneurs in our economy, have dealt with it the way they always do—they work harder, diversify, improve their relationships with clients and make more with less. And shopping centres, the landlords, have similarly had to grapple with the disruption of technology, and also with the demands of a much more sophisticated consumer, with greater ability to travel further in order to shop. They have also suffered the challenges of retail giants who are multi-national brands that wield far more power in the relationship than the landlord. Sometimes Goliath becomes David in this scenario!

 

Since I took over this portfolio, just 11 months ago, I have travelled around the State visiting some 15 regional communities—from Albury in the south to the Tweed in the north, from Broken Hill in the west to Orange and Port Macquarie. I have seen firsthand the issues for regional and even outer-metro communities in activating retail centres in the traditional high street shopping strips. The combination of absentee landlords, who do not care if their shops are empty, and councils struggling to attract the right mix of retailers, cafes and professionals to activate commercial spaces in their communities has meant that many of our regional towns and cities have large central business districts that are only half-full.

 

In the Minister's electorate of Monaro I discovered this is an issue, which the Minister has acknowledged is a struggle for Queanbeyan retailers. Sometimes government policy changes, such as the truncation of the rail line in the Hunter, can have negative consequences for retail precincts, with little power for them to ensure the safety of their shopkeepers, their staff and their customers. This issue has been pushed home for me by some local retailers. Yet in many of these towns and communities, the retail shopping centres are buzzing. They offer a variety of value-adds that attract shoppers—the floor is level, easier for trolleys and prams, doors are wide, there are escalators and elevators, there is plenty of parking, there are few empty shops, entertainment and dining options are available onsite, and toilet facilities are accessible and generally clean.

 

Shopping centres manage the activation of their spaces and they create retail communities and economies which are often almost quarantined from poor decisions by government. As I said, they too are at the mercy of large national and multinational retailers who have more power than them. Retailers are also far more sophisticated than ever and are grappling with change. They generally have online shops as a standalone and sometimes integrated part of their retail offering. They work hard on their visual presentation, they have developed loyalty programs and excellent training for their staff, and the hard work of shop assistants provides a personal and responsive service that just cannot be matched online. Even big retailers do it tough in a disrupted industry. As large national retailers that were household names for many years such as Dick Smith, Payless Shoes and others go into administration and/or liquidation it is often the small retailers that are making the necessary changes to provide a unique selling proposition to their customers in order to survive. The amount of change in the sector is why it is a shame it has taken the Government so long to get the legislation here.

 

As I said, the Retail Leases Act 1994 was aimed at greatly improving leasing culture and expanding and ensuring the rights of tenants in New South Wales. In large part the Act has been successful but over the past 23 years the needs of lessees and lessors in retail tenancy agreements have developed and the legislation must be developed to address those needs. The statutory review of the Act commenced in 2013 with a series of meetings with various stakeholders. The discussion paper identified eight key areas of concern and in October 2015 the Office of the Small Business Commissioner proceeded with the review that had lapsed due to the March 2015 election.

 

I acknowledge in the gallery Robyn Hobbs, OAM. Some stakeholders had expressed to me the view that the appointment of the Office of Small Business Commissioner to head the review was not indicative of a true desire by government to have a totally impartial view because the office tended to do the mediation of many complaints. They indicated they felt it would be like getting a prosecutor rather than a judge to oversee a court case. Of course I know the commissioner would have done everything she could to address those concerns. Most importantly, as I alluded to, it is of grave concern that is has taken three Ministers in this Government to get to this point. In fact, even the Deputy Premier has taken 14 months to get the legislation here notwithstanding the work of his predecessors. I acknowledge the former Minister and shadow Minister, the member for Cootamundra.

 

I am sure, like me, stakeholders were unsure during the instability of the various Government reshuffles in recent months whether or not we would have to start again with yet another Coalition Minister. I thank the many stakeholders who have engaged with me on this issue, often late into the night when we were not sure if the legislation would be debated the next day. I particularly thank the following stakeholders for their comprehensive responses to my questions: Michael Lonie from the National Retail Association; Russell Zimmerman and Heath Michael from the Australian Retailers Association; Angus Nardi and Kristin Pryce from the Shopping Centres Council of Australia; Mark Douglass from the Pharmacy Guild of Australia; Luke Aitken from the NSW Business Chamber; Damian Paull from the Franchise Council of Australia; Gabriel Lea and Liza Booth from the Law Society of Australia; Catherine Hallgath, partner in Mills Oakley Lawyers, on behalf of the Australian Institute of Conveyancers; and Meryn Willetts, former small business adviser to the Minister. I also thank current advisers Kailee and Rachel, who are in the Speaker's Gallery. Again I thank them and all stakeholders for their tenacity in sticking to a process over such a long time.

 

The bill generally represents those matters on which consensus was reached. Of course, in my negotiations many stakeholders sought to raise issues with me about which consensus was not reached. I am very aware of the impact of that. However, having worked on this issue for more than three years they have been united in saying that they were losing faith in the Government's ability to bring the legislation to the table. They were also united in their concerns that if the Government did not get this bill passed it would never be passed. We have taken that very much into consideration in our thinking on this legislation. Stakeholders have also noted the changes to retail trading hours that the Government introduced in other legislation which have been ongoing while this bill was being negotiated and have impacted upon it. Indeed, a trial of Boxing Day trading was introduced at the same time this bill was under statutory review, indicating that perhaps even the Premier as Treasurer was unsure if this legislation would ever come before us. At least now it has.

I turn to the legislation. It has been proposed that landlords be required to publish effective rents and turnover at a centre level against an agreed criterion. If the landlord fails to publish the data the clauses in leases relating to turnover would be voided. Information asymmetry and transparency have been very important to all parties.

 

When it comes to reporting and calculation of turnover revenue figures and determination of rents, there are always concerns. This is to be expected in any commercial relationship. Reporting of turnover figures by tenants to landlords is one of the major factors in determination of rent. Other factors include the status of the lessee as an anchor or ancillary lessee. Anchor tenants are those who are identified as tenants who bring customers into a centre. Traditionally these are mainly large retail chains—for example, stores like Apple, JB Hi-Fi, David Jones, Myer et cetera. Small boutique, quality and niche shops tend to pay more per square metre of rent, even though they are often the ones who bring in high-revenue customers.

Generally it is the higher the turnover, the higher the rent. In the old days, tenants were able to report their own nominated turnover to the lessor. However, with the recent implementation of GST legislation and movement to more computerised systems, landlords are able to collect the data electronically and there is less potential for fudging the figures to try to obtain a lower rent. I have been to one small retailer who used to have books for the tax office and separate books for the shopping centre, and he probably had another set of books actually detailing his turnover. The legislation provides for greater sharing of data in terms of rents and turnover, which provides an opportunity for tenants to benchmark their business performance against and compare rents with like tenants. That is seen as a proactive reason for collecting this data, and it is a good option. The data is reported confidentially, although many alluded to issues when there are only one or two tenants in a particular category.

 

More contentious is the issue of online transactions. Section 20 is amended to prevent revenue from online transactions being included in turnover for the purposes of the determination of rent on the basis of turnover, except for transactions where goods or services are delivered or provided from or at the retail shopping centre or where the transaction takes place when the customer is in the retail shop. New section 47 prevents the lessee from being required to provide the lessor with information about online transactions, except for transactions where goods and services are delivered or provided from or at the retail shop, retail shopping centre or where the transaction takes place while a customer is at the retail shop. It is quite complicated in this modern world. Around 20 per cent of tenants under this Act are located in shopping centres. With changes in technology and commercial transactions, many are becoming less focused on bricks and mortar shopfronts and more on their online shopfront. This has major implications for turnover reporting and management.

 

The legislation covers "click and collect" transactions where the lessee is essentially using its retail premises to facilitate the transaction. However, the legislation does not provide for landlords to collect rent based on turnover that is generated completely online—for example, home delivery or online services—and this is fair. There is risk to landlords that tenants could potentially be able to report less of their online figures, giving rise to fudging, as the money gets paid via an online portal which may or may not be covered by the instore registers that report directly to landlords. This could be by classifying all sales as online sales where there may be a higher proportion of "click and collect" transactions, for example. As a consumer, it is interesting to see that many stores are moving towards having a showroom format where only samples of goods are displayed instore and sales consultants actively encourage customers to order online and receive the goods by mail. It is unclear how these transactions would be reported if the retailer was not completely up-front about that.

 

I was advised by the Minister and his advisers that shopping centres wanted to include all online sales in the transactions. However, when I spoke to the Shopping Centre Council of Australia, it told me it merely wanted deception removed from the legislation because it believed it would not cover some of the opportunities for both retailers and shopping centres to increase sales turnover to their mutual benefit if it had the capacity to change the legislation only every three, five or 10 years as technology continued to fundamentally change commerce. In fact, it told me of some of the innovative work on online transactions. This includes setting up concierge services in some shopping centres so that customers can go to there to collect goods from shops that they could not access during business hours. For example, if I wanted to purchase a pair of jeans online through my local retailer, I may not be able to get there between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. to pick them up, so I could go to the concierge desk to collect them. I could even try them on there and check that they were a good fit.

 

If we want to buy from Australian retailers, we should be working with retailers and shopping centres to capture more business here. For example, nearly five years ago I travelled to the US on a holiday and bought some jeans. I love those jeans, but they are starting to wear out and I cannot get the same style here in Australia.

 

Apparently the buyers for the shopping centre and I disagree on what brands of jeans Australian women like. I can get the same brand in Australia but I cannot get the same specific style. Australia Post is dealing with this by providing online postboxes to Australian customers to purchase products from America directly. However, would it not be better if I could go to my local retailer of jeans who stocks that brand, order it online in store and then get it delivered to them so I could have an Australian transaction?

 

I would not have to put my credit card details online, I could try the jeans on to make sure the new pair fits correctly and, best of all, the local retailer who provides local jobs gets a sale. I acknowledge the interjection of the member for Cootamundra, who says that that service is available in some stores. It would be good if it were rolled out across the sector. There are so many ways that we could work with retailers and shopping centres to improve sales locally and provide local jobs. It seems a pity the Government wants to put all this in legislation rather than allow it to be in the code so that the retailers and centres that are obviously more on the ball as to what is happening have more control over how they operate as the technology changes. It could also be argued that if the code is to be used to determine turnover then more flexibility should be allowed and agreements about the inclusion of online data should be included in that code.

The Minister has been given some proposed amendments that make the carve-out intended by the Government considerably clearer while respecting the Government's intention to set parameters around the consideration of online transactions. However, when I spoke to the Minister and his advisers about this issue they appeared to be unaware that the online turnover was included in the legislation so they were unsure as to whether they could accept either the proposed amendments to the legislation or its removal from the bill. I must say I was very disappointed that such an important issue, which has been negotiated for so long, appears to have been given such scant regard. The issue of online turnover will definitely need to be reviewed as more technology-based retail starts to occur. The sector is in a state of huge disruption so this issue is anticipated by all stakeholders.

 

I turn now to the issue of inclusion or exclusion of GST from turnover and revenue figures. This issue is problematic and disadvantages retailers who sell products and services that are predominantly covered by GST. Prior to the introduction of this legislation, most centres assumed that GST was not included and added a flat 10 per cent to the turnover figures for all tenants as there was not a relationship of trust between all parties. The legislation proposes to include GST on all turnover figures, and this is problematic. For example, a greengrocer who sells no products that are subject to GST might report $110,000 in retail sales in any period but would report the same amount of that income as taxable income to the tax office while a jewellery store that sells all products including GST would report $110,000 in retail sales but its taxable income is only $100,000.

 

The Minister claims that this was agreed by the working party, and I agree with that. But I have also spoken to some of the retail associations and other stakeholders. Most were unaware of the impacts and those who were had just accepted them because of the length of time they had been in negotiation with the Government. They considered that it was a one-off hit that was worth taking in order to secure changes. In my mind, if retailers are giving their sales data straight to the shopping centres electronically it appears to be a quite simple process to ensure that that data is correct and reflects the real value of those transactions to the centre. A retail travel agent, for example, may have a turnover figure of $25,000 for a trip overseas and yet it is spending nothing like that in terms of the impact and the turnover that it reports as income because its commissions are so small. I can give hundreds of similar examples. But let us move on.

 

A major advantage of the legislation with benchmarking of rents in terms of the turnover will be the ability to compare rental figures across tenants in centres. Specialist retail valuers work with the office of the Small Business Commissioner. However, they do not report to the commissioner. Small businesses can ask for a valuation of their retail business. This is not covered by the legislation or the Act. However, I suggested to the Minister that tenants should be informed of this service to enable them to work better on their businesses. They will seek to promote the rollout of those specialist retail valuers to engage with tenants as part of a campaign to inform the industry of their availability. The Minister has informed me they will do that, so I am hoping it happens.

 

I turn now to the Draft Retail Industry Code of Practice—The Reporting of Sales and Occupancy Costs. The Minister indicated in his second reading speech that the matter of this code is still outstanding business for the working party. The Minister said:

I am also pleased to update the House on an industry first development. The major retail industry stakeholders have reached agreement without the heavy hand of Government on a voluntary code of conduct, which we will call "the code".

He then goes on to speak about whom he has consulted with, what the code covers and how he is pleased that a number of specialist lessee groups are seeking to enter into the code. The code that the Minister refers to in his speech is the code dated April 2016, which is a compromised code and is in no way, according to some stakeholders, as comprehensive as the May 2014 code. The 2014 code was submitted to the Minister's office at his request and nothing was done to progress the matter until it was known what was going to happen with the legislation. The reason for the compromise was that some stakeholders could not reach agreement in respect of the 2014 code.

 

There is a view amongst some stakeholders that other stakeholders should not have been a party to the code as they do not provide sales figures to landlords, which is a key component of the code, because they are prevented from doing so by Federal legislation relating to their industry. Contrary to what the Minister has been saying, the code is not done and dusted—and I will relate my concerns about the disclosure of outgoings in a moment. When I asked the Minister for the most up-to-date version of the code, after he showed he was unclear whether online transactions were covered by the code or the legislation, he agreed that it was still a bit confusing. I asked him again why, after three years of debate and negotiations on this issue, the Minister and his office are unclear about what is covered in the code and what is not.

 

I also have a concern in relation to the disclosure of outgoings, which is obviously an extra cost in addition to rent. The bill requires full disclosure in the lessor's disclosure statement of any obligation of the lessee to contribute to the lessor's outgoings and to prevent the recovery from a lessee of outgoings that are not disclosed. That is very fair because lessees who enter into a rental agreement that has a set amount for rent, water, electricity and other outgoings should not have that amount increased because of the landlord's bad planning. The legislation is designed to stop outgoings increasing for the retailer due to poor business planning by the landlord—excluding reasonable increases of wages for security costs or an increase in the cost of utilities. However, in his second reading speech the Minister refers specifically to a doubling in land tax as being unreasonable. I will quote from the Minister's speech because it is confusing on this point—a fact that his office appeared to be aware of when I raised it with him.

 

The Minister said: Future increases in the outgoing will be limited by reference to the estimated amount—for example, the cost from the previous year. To illustrate what this means, imagine the landlord estimates that a tenant's contribution for land tax will be $1,000 per quarter but the actual cost is $2,000. This represents a variation of 100 per cent. Therefore, the tenant will be liable for only 50 per cent of the actual amount of the outgoing throughout the term of the lease.

 

Given that this is subject to statutory determinations beyond the control of the landlord and at the whim of the Government in some cases, this would appear to be one of the few examples of reasonable grounds to increase outgoings. It is very dangerous ground for the Minister to be using that as an example where landlords would not be able to recoup the outgoings. Another example is the Government's proposed new Emergency Services Property Levy, which is scheduled to commence on 1 July 2017 but has not yet been legislated and applicable levy rates have not yet been released. This exposes both the retailer and the landlord to more avenues of conflict over what is reasonable, with some unhelpful comments from the Minister in his second reading speech.

 

It could be seen to be shifting a disproportionate amount of risk onto the landlord where they are "price takers"—for example, statutory charges such as rates, land tax, electricity and water. The Shopping Centre Council has requested that this section be removed in full or moved to a more relevant section of the Act—for example, under part 3, Rent and Outgoings—so that the new provisions could be read in the context of existing regulation regarding outgoings. That also has an impact on small retailers who may be in a rezoned area where there has been significant improvement to the shopping centre precinct. For example, in my electorate there has been a $400 million investment in a retail shopping centre, and we all know that as soon as that centre is completed the Valuer-General will come to that area and he or she will slap on a new valuation and that will have a significant impact on rates.

 

We would hope that the major retailer would have factored that into the cost of their renovations because they would have entered into a lease arrangement with their tenants, which may not be renewable for five years. The extra foot traffic generated by a successful renovation would increase turnover for the tenant, but not so much for the landlord. If we think beyond the main shopping centres to ancillary shopping centres alongside them, which may have five shops in a strip, their rates would also increase. Although those shops have done nothing to benefit from the renovations, they will receive a higher turnover and the landlord will have higher outgoings, so the Minister's comments are dangerous.

 

The concerns expressed to me by the Shopping Centre Council of Australia about the proposed amendments do not change the Government's intent. Rather, they provide clarity and reduce risk on issues where the weight of the regulation and risk will sit with landlords. Given that the Minister's second reading speech will be used by the courts to interpret the Government's intentions where disputes occur, it is important that he clarifies this important point in his reply. When I spoke to his staff earlier in this process, they were aware of this issue. The West Australian and Victorian governments are waiting on the actions we take in New South Wales before amending their legislation. I urge the Minister for Small Business and those in other States to look carefully at how this legislation operates.

 

I refer to the removal of the minimum five-year term. Section 16 is repealed and, therefore, will remove the requirement for a five-year minimum term for retail leases. Some stakeholders have expressed to me their disagreement about this. They believe the minimum five-year term should be maintained because it provides certainty and security to tenants. It was a key reform introduced into the Act in 1994 as a result of concerns that some landlords may have been taking advantage of retail tenants, letting premises for relatively short terms and, on expiration, re-letting them at a premium to a competitor tenant. Other stakeholders believe a shorter term can be established through other means such as using a certificate. However, this adds cost as a solicitor is required to draft it. The Law Society is concerned that lessees have access to proper advice should they take a longer lease. A model lease has been suggested. The Government must keep an eye on how that is operating and what rights are being maintained for both parties.

 

The classification of shopping centre spaces in office shops has also introduced another area of contention. It brings shops that are part of office spaces into the legislation, for example, the food court at the bottom of the MLC Tower, which many members in this place would be familiar with, or the shops at the bottom of Deutsche Bank across the road. The current wording to include retail space in office towers such as the MLC Centre could be interpreted as referring to non-retailers and non-retail floor space. While the Minister's second reading speech confirms that this is not the intention of the bill or the Government, it was the understanding of all the parties, and legal advice obtained by some stakeholders indicates there are concerns about how the drafted legislation could be interpreted.

 

I have raised this with the Minister and his office and it is up to him and the Government to decide whether they accept the proposed alternative amendment to include the retail components that does not have the unintended consequence of capturing non-retail space. Different stakeholders have raised a number of other concerns with me. Of course, when a bill contains more than 50 changes to legislation there will be a variety of views. I will not go into them at this time, but I assure all stakeholders that I will continue to monitor the operation of this legislation. The Opposition will hold the Government to account to ensure that detrimental unintended consequences are not imposed on those who are unable to address them.

One aspect of the legislation that raises great concerns with me is retrospectivity. If we do a word search of the bill, we do not see the words "this should act retrospectively". However, there are concerns about the way it is operating. The bill aims to provide additional protections to lessees and contains amendments to the current Act that reflect consensus amongst stakeholders, but there is a glaring fault in the draft that must be addressed. The bill proposes to insert a part 7 to schedule 3 to the Retail Leases Act 1994, which reads:

An amendment made by the 2016 amending Act extends to a lease entered into, and a disclosure statement given, before the commencement of the amendment except as otherwise provided by this Schedule.

 

The Law Society has expressed concern with the formulation of this section, as the retrospectivity may become unworkable and lead to unfair outcomes, particularly as they are exemptions that can lead to further uncertainty. More broadly, the Law Society opposes retrospectivity on general principle, as does the Opposition, viewing the section as potentially compromising the rule of law and suggests that the provisions should be given a much more limited scope than a blanket retrospectivity with some exceptions. When I expressed these concerns to the Minister's office in November, it was indicated that this could be a drafting error and that it may be open to amendment. However as late as yesterday I was advised that they were not sure if it was retrospective. Again, the lack of scrutiny and the lack of attention to detail concern me.

 

There are some parts of the Act that will clearly benefit retailers, including more clarity in relation to the sale of an existing business, through reform of the assignment criteria; and the provision of certainty with regard to the way in which bank guarantees are treated by landlords, not only providing clear notice periods before calling in such a security but importantly, the timely return to the lessee at lease end or assignment. The introduction of the code of conduct sales reporting will provide more transparent market data around occupancy costs and improved research capabilities, which is very important given the leading role that retail spaces play in our economy. The introduction of mandatory lease registration will supply the opportunity for lessees to perform effective investigations into commercial markets and support sound business decision-making, all of which create the opportunity to improve the transparency of the market for retail leases in New South Wales.

 

I have spoken to many stakeholders and they are keen to proceed with the bill on the basis that it generally addresses the points of consensus. They do, however, anticipate that more challenges will arise in the next four years and that therefore the legislation will have to be amended and developed further in the future. If the legislation goes through in the manner in which it is being pushed through by the Government, I agree wholeheartedly with them. All stakeholders have to discuss the long timeframe for the introduction of the bill and the extensive consultation period of the Government, and it would be remiss of me to stand in the way of that on behalf of the Opposition.

 

All stakeholders have expressed the view that amendments should be made with the agreement of the Government, and I agree on that as well. They have waited long enough and the Opposition respects the view of the many, many people who have engaged with me on this issue. I thank them again for giving generously of their time in sharing their views. I hope that the Minister will address these issues in his speech in reply. I commend the Retail Leases Amendment (Review) Bill 2016 to the House.

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