Retail Leases Amendment Bill 2012

Written on the 15 November 2012

I am also pleased to speak briefly on the Retail Leases Amendment Bill 2012, and I am pleased that members opposite are not opposing this bill. As highlighted by my colleague Mrs Kronberg, this bill is going to cut red tape and make business easier to conduct in this state, especially in the area of retail, which is under significant pressure in the current economic climate. Anything we can do to support business by cutting red tape will assist the very important retail sector. This piece of legislation is intended to reduce red tape and decrease the regulatory burden. It is part of the coalition government's election commitment to slash red tape, and the government is supporting small business and business in general.


The bill introduces a number of amendments clarifying the obligations that apply to prospective landlords. When people enter leases, which is sometimes a very large commitment for them, they need to understand what they are signing up for.


The bill makes amendments to sections 15, 17 and 23 of the Retail Leases Act 2003 to confirm and enhance protection for prospective tenants.


The amendment to section 15 requires a landlord to provide a tenant with a copy of the proposed lease agreement and to attach a brochure of information about the services of the small business commissioner. The amendment to section 17 requires a landlord to provide a prospective tenant with a copy of the proposed lease along with a disclosure statement seven days before the lease is signed. As I said at the outset, that is to ensure any prospective tenant has enough time to consider the implications and the clauses of the lease. That is an important aspect as often leases are entered into by people going into business for the very first time, and they should be supported when doing so. They need to understand what they are getting themselves into, but often, as many of us who have entered into, been part of or started up a small business would know, there are risks associated with going into business.


Those risks need to be identified, and this bill will assist in those issues.


Retail is a very important part of our economy. Small businesses and those businesses that employ tens and hundreds of thousands of Victorians contribute a huge amount to the Victorian economy, and this bill will cut red tape for many people. It has been applauded by industry groups and, as was highlighted by Mrs Kronberg, the Productivity Commission and the Victorian Competition and Efficiency Commission have supported these moves and have been recommending them for quite some time. It is estimated that the savings to Victorian retail landlords will be in the vicinity of $700 000 annually, or a saving of $50 per notification that would otherwise have to be done.


It is really a common-sense proposal because of what is presently available with the use of databases.


Notifying changes to the small business commissioner in the manner it has been done is time consuming and quite redundant in 2012 when technological advances have led to enhanced and updated databases and there are mechanisms to register and maintain details in a way that means they can be easily updated.


I speak on a regular basis to small businesses and retail outlets in my electorate of Southern Metropolitan Region. They have concerns in relation to the current economic climate. They would dearly love to have more confidence instilled from a national perspective. There is a lot of scepticism in the business community about certain aspects that are impacting the entire Australian economy. I am pleased to say that the Victorian coalition government is doing an enormous amount to instil confidence locally here in Victoria.


The government is undertaking other measures to assist retail more generally.


There have been a number of funding grants to traders associations, for instance. I have been talking to a number of traders associations within my electorate who are very supportive of those initiatives that will give local traders -- --


Mr Koch interjected.


Ms CROZIER -- Chapel Street is an excellent example, Mr Koch, of a very vibrant, very good retail precinct in Melbourne. It is iconic, as Mr Koch knows; I am sure he has been down there a number of times. It provides a huge economic boost to this state and should be supported. The member for Prahran -- --


Mr Koch interjected.


Ms CROZIER -- You raise a very good issue. The clearways issue affected retail right across the area, right down Chapel Street, High Street, Malvern Road and Toorak Road -- all those areas. Mr Newton-Brown, the member for Prahran in the Assembly, and my parliamentary colleague Mrs Coote led the charge to remove clearways for years because of the huge impost they were going to place on those retail outlets, and they should be congratulated. There has since been a great boost to the local economy. Anything we can do to support retail, like getting rid of clearways, an initiative which was applauded and supported, is a further demonstration of the coalition government's commitment to supporting small business and retail.


In conclusion I reiterate that this is a good piece of legislation. It will reduce red tape for landlords and provide increased protection for tenants. It is important that we support small business. This important piece of legislation will instil further confidence in our retail sector across Victoria. I commend the bill to the house.

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