Australians needing statutory declarations will no longer need to wait in lines or call around for a Justice of the Peace, with the system officially moving into the digital age.

In what the government expects to be a major boost to productivity, statutory declarations will be able to be done digitally from January 1 next year.

The government says new legislation, passed by the Senate on Thursday, will allow Australians to claw back hundreds of thousands of hours each year and save millions of dollars.

Australians will be able to use their MyGov accounts and the Digital ID to fill out and submit a statutory declaration, without needing any witness.

The legislation also makes permanent the temporary measures put in place during the Covid-19 pandemic, which allow electronic signatures and video link witnessing.

Australians wanting to continue to execute statutory declarations through the traditional, paper-based method will continue to be able to do so.

All three methods will be “equally valid and legally effective”.

In a joint statement, Acting Attorney-General Michelle Rowland, Government Services Minister Bill Shorten and Finance Minister Katy Gallagher said the “important” reforms would “benefit all Australians seeking a more convenient, and efficient, statutory declaration process – particularly those in rural, remote or regional parts of Australia”.

“Digital statutory declarations could save more than $156m and hundreds of thousands of hours each year and deliver a productivity bonus to the national economy,” the statement said.

“Australians spend an estimated nine million hours each year executing and processing more than 3.8 million statutory declarations. Historically, these documents have been strictly paper-based, meaning they had to be witnessed in person and signed in ink.”

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