Commonwealth statutory declarations can now be witnessed on myGov using the federal government’s digital identity system, removing the need for Australians to visit a Justice of the Peace.
Finance minister Katy Gallagher, Government Services minister Bill Shorten and Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus announced the arrival of end-to-end digital witnessing on Monday, giving individuals and businesses the option to complete stat decs online for the first time.
The arrival of the myGov feature comes just three months after passage of the Statutory Declarations Amendment Bill. Two new options for stat decs were introduced as a result of the bill which came into effect on January 1: an end-to-end digital option and digital-assisted option.
Using myGovID, the end-to-end option on myGov verifies the identity of the person making the declaration without needing to have a witness, such as a Justice of the Peace (JP) or lawyer, present.
In 2021 alone, small businesses and consumers – around 34 per cent of businesses and 20 per cent of individuals – are estimated to have spent nine million hours completing more than 3.8 million statutory declarations, all of which were signed in person and on paper.
Economic modelling completed by Accenture in the same year shows that reforms to statutory declarations would save businesses $115 million and individuals $55 million, or $35 and $17 for each digital statutory declaration signed.
The myGov statutory declaration can be used to complete stat decs involving federal legislation, such as visa applications, superannuation claims and employment and leave claims, and can also be used for matters in the Australian Capital Territory.
Individuals will need to hold a ‘standard’ or ‘identity proofing level 2/2+’ digital identity through myGovID, requiring two Australian identity documents to be proofed and, in some instances, a face scan.
Once a declaration is completed, it can be downloaded to a person’s phone or computer for printing or sharing. Digital declarations also include a QR code, which a relying organisation can scan using the myGov app to check authenticity.
With Parliament yet to pass digital identity laws that will expand digital identity to state and territory governments and the private sector, myGov is the only platform currently capable of executing digital declaration.
As with the rest of the scheme, it is expected, however, that individuals will eventually be able to use other providers to complete a digital stat dec, though the timing remains unclear.
The federal government expects the Digital ID Bill could pass as soon as the middle of the year. It is currently before the Senate Standing Committee on Economics for review, with a report expected later this month.
The inquiry has heard calls for the government to allow the private sector to begin offering digital identity services at the same time as the states and territories, and to ban police access to digital ID information.
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