Australia has just made a significant change in how people officially declare things, waving goodbye to traditional pen-and-paper methods. Led by Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, a new law has been passed, making it possible for Australians to use digital execution, electronic signatures, and video-link witnessing for Commonwealth statutory declarations.
This move towards digitization is a response to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Temporary measures introduced during the pandemic, allowing remote execution through electronic means, have now become a permanent part of Australian law. Starting from January 1, 2024, people can officially declare things online, marking a departure from centuries-old ink and paper traditions.
The benefits of this digital shift are substantial, with estimated annual cost savings exceeding $156 million. Additionally, it is expected to save Australians hundreds of thousands of hours previously spent on the execution and processing of more than 3.8 million statutory declarations each year.
Traditionally, statutory declarations involved a paper-based format, requiring in-person witnessing and ink signatures. The new legislation introduces greater flexibility by enabling Australians to digitally execute statutory declarations through the online platform myGov and the Australian Government’s Digital ID (myGovID). Importantly, this digital option will coexist with the traditional paper-based method, giving citizens the freedom to choose how they want to declare their statements.
Recognizing the importance of protecting against fraud and the misuse of personal information, the bill includes provisions to ensure transparency and accountability. Approved online platforms and identity services must comply with privacy laws and maintain robust fraud and security measures. The legislation also prohibits these platforms from retaining copies of statutory declarations, emphasizing the safeguarding of sensitive personal information.
To enhance accountability, the bill mandates an annual reporting requirement to the Parliament on the operation of the online execution platform. This measure aims to assess the effectiveness of digital processes and address any emerging concerns.
The implementation of digital statutory declarations is expected to benefit all Australians, particularly those in rural, remote, or regional areas, by enhancing convenience and efficiency. By embracing the digital era, the government is not only adapting to the evolving needs of its citizens but also setting the stage for further innovations in legal processes, reinforcing Australia’s commitment to leveraging technology for the benefit of its people.
In conclusion, the passage of this legislation marks a significant milestone in the evolution of legal practices in Australia. As the nation embraces the digital era for statutory declarations, it opens doors for more accessible and inclusive legal frameworks, making the process simpler and more efficient for everyone.