The New South Wales Parliament has extended the operation of provisions allowing witnessing and attestation of certain documents via audio-visual link until the end of 2021.
It has done so as part of a new pilot scheme to test whether these amendments should be maintained in the long-term.
The new scheme was passed under the Stronger Communities Legislation Amendment (Courts and Civil) Act 2020. Explanatory notes can be found here.
The scheme will preserve the modifications implemented temporarily in April to the Electronic Transactions Regulations 2017. These changes allowed signatures on certain documents such as deeds, affidavits and statutory declarations to be witnessed via audio-visual link.
These measures were set to expire on 26 September 2020 but were recently extended for a further six months. The scheme preserves these measures and transfers them to the Electronic Transactions Act 2020. NSW Parliament has indicated this will allow sufficient time to review the effectiveness of the scheme, which will inform whether these changes will be sustained in the long-term.
The Federal Treasurer has also formally extended electronic signing of documents under s127(1) of the Corporations Act, and shareholder meetings will also continue to be conducted online until 22 March 2021. Further information regarding the amendments to the Corporations Act can be found here.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the complexities and challenges of relying on paper-based legal frameworks and these amendments are laying the foundations for permanent reform to legal processes.