page considers the shape of Australian official registers
regarding ownership (eg land, firearms, vehicles and pets)
and uses (driver and recreational fishing licensing).
It covers -
page supplements discussion elsewhere on this site regarding
privacy, security and the Australia Card.
of tangible property is of interest to government as both
the basis of commercial activity and as a source of revenue,
with state/territory and local governments for example
gaining substantial funds from taxes on realestate values/transfers
and from a plethora of licenses such as dog registration.
Much of that registration involves identification of individuals.
Registration of real estate in Australia is undertaken
by state government agencies -
The state/territory agencies are -
- Registrar-General's Office (RGO)
New South Wales - Department of Lands (DL)
Territory - Land Titles Office (LTO)
- Land Registry (LR)
Australia - Land Titles Office (LTO)
- Office of the Recorder of Titles (ORT)
- Land Registry (LR)
Australia - Landgate (formerly Department of Land Information)
institutions and other entities can access data (online
or in hardcopy) about property titles from those bodies.
They also exchange information, for example as part of
mortgage transfers and as part of credit referencing.
Access to the Australian registers is somewhat more restricted
than the UK, where the Land Registry launched its Land
Register Online service in 2006, allowing anyone with
web access, a credit/debit card and an email address to
access information on who owns a property, how much was
paid for it (if registered since April 2000), the length
of any lease and which lender provided the mortgage. The
Land Registry holds information on 19 million properties
in England and Wales. The chief land registrar commented
that "The Land Register is a public database and
as part of Land Registry's strategy we are committed to
ensuring that it is accessible to everyone".
The Australian personal property securities (PPS) register
regime - which for example allows users to determine whether
a motor vehicle is encumbered - is discussed later in
Introductions to the Australian regime are provided in
Robert Chambers' An Introduction to Property Law in
Australia (Pyrmont: LBC 2001) and Sackville &
Neave Property Law Cases & Materials (Chatswood:
Butterworths 2004) by Brendan Edgeworth, Chris Rossiter
& Margaret Stone,
The power to make laws regulating road transport falls
within the constitutional power of State and Territory
legislatures, with broad coordination under Road Transport
Agreements in 1991 (the Heavy Vehicles Agreement) and
1992 (the Light Vehicles Agreement) between the national
government, states and major territories.
As official documents that incorporate a photograph (and
are now held by over 50% of adult Australians) drivers
licences have served as the de facto standard
identity document in many private and public sector transactions.
Driver and vehicle registration is a state/territory rather
than federal government responsibility, with state governments
maintaining discrete driver license registers. There is
thus no single integrated database or manual register
covering all Australian drivers.
The scope for regulatory arbitrage led to implementation
in 1999-2000 of a national driver licensing scheme under
the auspices of the National Road Transport Commission,
with uniform requirements for key licensing transactions
such as licence issue, renewal, variation and suspension/cancellation.
The scheme provides that people who reside continuously
for over three months outside the state/territory
in Australia in which the licence was issued should transfer
the registration to the new jurisdiction.
Registration of Australian motor vehicles is a federal
and state/territory responsibility, with vehicle number
plates accordingly being issued by the states, major territories,
the national government (for official purposes) and the
armed forces. A set of plates is typically associated
with a specific vehicle, rather than the driver or owner,
and often lasts for that vehicle's on-road life.
Questions about data sharing are highlighted in the discussion
of automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) systems elsewhere
on this site.
There is similarly no unitary national register of firearms
and other weapons.
The Australian Constitution
does not feature an explicit right to own/bear arms, somewhat
to the surprise of people whose awareness of such law
primarily derives from watching US television dramas.
Following the 1996 Port Arthur incident the Australasian
Police Ministers' Council reached a Nationwide Agreement
on Firearms (NAF) which committed the federal and state/territory
governments to registration of all firearms and the licensing
of firearms owners. State/territory legislation regarding
firearms registration is itemised here.
Firearms applicants are required to have a "genuine
reason and need for owning, possessing or using a firearm"
(eg wish to use a gun for sport or on a farm). They are
also required to be aged 18 years and over, be a "fit
and proper person" (ie meet character
tests), be able to provide proof of identity through
a 100-point system and
undertake "adequate safety training".
The state and territory each established a consistent
and firearms registration and firearms owner licence system.
That system is typically maintained by a Firearms Registry
branch in each police jurisdiction. Websites for those
registries are itemised here.
The Australian Institute of Criminology notes that the
rate of homicide involving firearms has fluctuated from
as low as 0.16 per 100,000 population in 1950 to as high
as 0.78 in 1984 (an average of about 81 persons killed
per year), with substantial differences between Australian
There is no single national dog, cat or other pet register
in Australia. Registration of companion animals centres
on licensing of cat and dog ownership.
Licenses are issued by local government (eg municipal
and shire councils) under state/territory legislation
such as the Western Australian Dog Act 1976 and
the South Australian Dog & Cat Management Act
1995. That licensing provides revenue for the governments
and in principle ensures that owners can be held legally
responsible for damages caused by their pets and reunited
with lost animals.
In practice it appears that under 60% of urban pets are
registered, with owners evading registration at the time
of acquisition or periodic renewal (typically every one
or two years).
Information is not exchanged between the different local
government databases and development of comprehensive
schemes by commercial and nonprofit bodies has been impeded
by disagreement about standards and costs.
As with companion animal licensing, recreation licences
such as fishing licences are issued under state/territory
legislation rather than federal enactments. The registers
are typically not publicly available but as with other
databases may be accessed by a range of law enforcement
agencies and other officials.