Legislative Council: Wednesday, February 07, 2024


Unclaimed Goods Act

The Hon. M. EL DANNAWI (14:43): My question is to the Attorney-General: Will the minister inform the council about work the government is undertaking to review the Unclaimed Goods Act?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (14:43): I thank the honourable member for her question. The Unclaimed Goods Act was introduced quite some time ago. In fact, it came into effect in 1987, when things were very, very different—emails weren't around, the marketplace was generally a physical space rather than on an online selling option—and the Unclaimed Goods Act reflects the error that was introduced and that is why we are eager to look at ways that we can revamp and modernise this important area of law.

According to the act, goods become unclaimed when they are received by a bailee and are unable to be returned by their owner, either by the owner's failure to collect the goods within the agreed time frame, the inability to deliver goods to the owner following reasonable attempts or the owner's failure to collect the goods within 42 days of a formal request being published. After 42 days have elapsed, the bailee must also then wait for three months before they are able to be sold or be disposed of. Goods are then classified into scales, and their classification determines the way in which they can be sold or disposed of.

These methods are, for the most part, rather burdensome for the business being left with the goods. Take, for example, the mechanic who has quoted for repairs on a car that the owner has decided not to proceed with and has then left the car at the mechanic's workshop and is not able to be contacted. The act sets out that, if the car is valued at over $2,000, the mechanic can only sell or dispose of the goods with the authorisation of the court. For goods valued between $500 and $2,000, the goods can be sold by public auction, with the owner needing to be notified via post at their last known address.

We are committed to looking at better ways for businesses to operate, and we think this is one area where we can introduce reform and bring it into line with the 21st century. Reform in this area will make life easier for those who are trying to get on with running their business but are tied down with cumbersome and lengthy processes that reflect processes from the 1980s. The things we are looking at include the possibility of modernising methods of specified communications to include electronic communications, such as email or text messages, rather than post; allowing goods to be sold via online platforms rather than by public auction; and looking at raising the scales of values to reflect a more contemporary value.

The government is currently reviewing this legislation and is accepting submissions on the YourSAy website until Friday 16 February. I encourage anyone interested to read the discussion paper and have their say on how we can tidy up this piece of legislation.