Digital statutory declarations look set to become permanent

08 September 2023

Yesterday, the federal government introduced the Statutory Declarations Amendment Bill 2023 (the Bill) to make permanent the use of digital execution — electronic signatures and video-link witnessing — in place of the traditional ink and paper.

The Bill looks to make permanent the temporary measures introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic, which are set to expire on 31 December 2023, allowing statutory declarations to be made using electronic signatures and video-link witnessing.

The Bill goes one step further however in enabling people to digitally execute a statutory declaration using an approved online platform. Only an approved online platform such as myGov will be authorised to provide a digital Commonwealth statutory declaration execution service, with an approved identity service such as myGovID to verify the identity of the person making the statutory declaration.

To ensure transparency and accountability, the Bill includes a range of provisions to ensure approved online platforms and identity services comply with privacy laws and have robust fraud and security arrangements. Further, the Bill prohibits approved online platforms from retaining copies of statutory declarations, noting that the declaration can hold particularly sensitive personal information.

Importantly, the Bill does not look to replace the traditional, paper-based method of executing statutory declarations but rather provide Australians with three equally valid and legally effective methods of Commonwealth statutory declaration.

The Bill seeks to enhance the ability for people and businesses to participate in the digital economy with greater ease and provide increased access to government services, particularly for those living in rural, regional and remote communities.

We will keep you updated as the Bill progresses through Parliament.