One step closer to paperless permanency with the Digital Business Plan

Over the last six months, in response to the extraordinary lockdown of life as we know it, Federal and State Governments implemented temporary measures to help people complete certain legal tasks.

For example, during COVID-19, people have been temporarily allowed to use digital platforms like Skype, FaceTime and Zoom to be used for remote electronic witnessing. And they could use electronic signatures on more types of legal documents than ever before.

While all this has certainly been a significant step in the right direction, stakeholders in various industries – including those in the financial and legal sectors – have been calling on the government to make these temporary legislative measures permanent.

The good news? It looks like policymakers are on board with such changes and are already discussing about moving in a positive digital direction.

The Digital Business Plan

The Federal Government this week announced the Digital Business Plan to help drive Australia’s economic recovery from the pandemic. The almost-$800 million plan is designed to help businesses take advantage of digital technologies to grow.

It’s a comprehensive plan that covers everything from a blockchain pilot project to 5G telecommunication technology… and there’s one item in the plan that particularly has us excited. It’s this: “Consulting on making permanent the temporary reforms to allow companies to hold virtual meetings and execute documents electronically.” (emphasis added)

Here’s what our Vice President and Deputy General Counsel, Doug Luftman, has to say about it:

“The COVID-19 crisis has put a bright spotlight on how outdated federal and state laws have significantly impacted businesses and hindered everyday activities, like signing important documents. 

We commend the Australian government's latest efforts of ‘consulting on making permanent the temporary reforms to allow companies to hold virtual meetings and execute documents electronically’ which is a key element of its Digital Business Plan. This is an important national step for Australia. 

We also believe it is equally important that States and Territories follow suit, and work to ensure its laws also are permanently modernized to ensure its residents can continue to conduct a broad range of important digital activities, such as electronically signing deeds.

Given Australia’s digital economy has taken such great strides in the last six months in introducing important interim digital measures, it doesn’t make sense to now revert back to the country’s old ways. Australia has a unique opportunity to continue its digital journey by making such digital measures permanent.”

The ABA is on board with change

Together with Docusign, the Australian Banking Association (ABA) supports the move to make these temporary laws permanent. Anna Bligh AC, Chief Executive, ABA, said that “these changes will make banking faster and easier” and called on state governments to “work together through the national cabinet to ensure state and territories laws are consistent.”

Not only would the changes make banking easier, but they would make life a lot easier for many Australians – from large corporations through to consumers. 

To learn more about the latest on electronic contracts and electronic signatures under Australian law, head here.