Australians signing statutory declarations will no longer need to use pen and paper as the legal process moves “into the digital age”.

The federal government has introduced legislation to permanently allow declarations to be made with electronic signatures and video-link witnessing. The measures were temporary during Covid-19.

The Bill will also allow Australians to execute a stat dec digitally using the myGov platform and myGov ID.

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus believes the digital declarations could save more than $156m a year and hundreds of thousands of hours for the private sector.

“Australians spend an estimated nine million hours each year executing and processing more than 3.8 million statutory declarations,” his office said in a statement.

“Historically, these documents have been strictly paper-based, requiring they be witnessed in person and signed in ink.”

It’s also hoped the new digital forms will convenience Australians from rural and remote areas.

Those who prefer to do the traditional, paper-based version will still be able to do so, with all three methods “equally valid and legally effective form of Commonwealth statutory declaration”.

The Bill also features provisions to “ensure transparency and accountability” and requires approved online platforms and identity services to demonstrate they comply with privacy laws and have “robust” fraud and security arrangements.

“The Bill also prohibits approved online platforms from retaining copies of statutory declarations, noting that they can hold particularly sensitive personal information,” Mr Dreyfus’ office said.

“There is also an annual reporting requirement to the parliament on the operation of the online execution platform.”

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