Over 4.5 million deeds and 3.8 million statutory declarations are executed each year by individuals and small and medium-sized enterprises. The associated requirements for paper based processes, wet-ink signatures and physical witnessing discourage the end to end digital service delivery that people expect from government. A common digital approach to document execution could save over $400 million each year in time and cost savings for businesses and consumers.
The Australian Government is working to ensure that the regulations that govern the execution of documents are light-touch, fit for purpose and reflect the way businesses and consumers want to engage and communicate digitally.
Background information on document execution and consultations on modernising document execution is available at:
- Executing documents in a digital economy: rethinking statutory declarations and deeds in Australia
- Document Execution Roundtable Consultations Report – 22 October 2021.
Consultation on proposed reform to the execution of Commonwealth statutory declarations
On 6 July 2023, the Australian Government, through the Attorney’s General Department, opened consultation on amending the Statutory Declarations Act 1959 and the Statutory Declarations Regulations 2018 to introduce new ways of executing Commonwealth statutory declarations.
The proposed amendments would establish a legislative framework to allow multiple options for execution of Commonwealth statutory declarations. Declarants could choose which method suits them best, meaning that those without adequate access to technological devices or internet connectivity, or those who may prefer not to engage with the electronic or digital execution options, will not be disadvantaged.
The framework would allow a Commonwealth statutory declaration to be executed in any of the following ways:
- traditional paper-based execution (requiring wet-ink signatures and in-person witnessing)
- e-execution (allowing electronic signatures and witnessing via audio-visual link)
- digital execution (end-to-end online execution, with digital identity providers to verify identity and satisfy witnessing requirements).
The consultation opened on 6 July 2023, closing on 28 July 2023.
You can make a submission or find further information about the proposal and consultation paper at Modernising document execution: consultation on proposed reform to the execution of Commonwealth statutory declarations - Attorney-General's Department - Citizen Space (ag.gov.au)
Electronic Transactions Act
In 2021, the Deregulation Taskforce (now the Regulatory Reform Division, Department of Finance) published the Modernising Document Execution (MDE) consultation paper, which focused on execution requirements for special documents like deeds and statutory declarations.
Through that process, respondents identified issues with the Commonwealth Electronic Transactions Act 1999 (ETA). As the ETA is an important feature of the growing digital economy and, as an Act of general application, interacts closely with other laws – it is important that people are aware of how it operates and that the Government is aware of any concerns in relation to its use.
The ETA consultation opened on 23 January 2023, closing on 20 March 2023. The Government, through the Attorney-General’s Department, is seeking feedback on, and experiences with, the ETA – including the consent requirements, e-signature verification, electronic records, and exemptions to the ETA. The feedback and views will help shape the effective implementation of the ETA to make Australian e-commerce clearer, more accessible and more consistent.
You can find more information about this work, and the consultation, at https://consultations.ag.gov.au/legal-system/eta/