DCCL COVID-19 Resource Centre: Issue 5
21 May 2020
This is our fifth publication of useful resources for our clients during the current coronavirus disruption. Our previous publications are available here. Clients are welcome to raise specific issues which they would like us to comment upon in future publications.
Changes allow wider electronic execution of documents by company officers
Following the Corporations (Coronavirus Economic Response) Determination (No. 1) 2020 (Cth), companies can execute documents by electronically signing counterparts, provided that each electronic counterpart contains the entire contents of the document, and provided the requirements of the Electronic Transactions Act 1999 (Cth) (ETA) (which are explained in our website article) are satisfied. Further, and importantly, other persons are entitled to rely upon the assumptions under section 129 of the Corporations Act (including an assumption that the document was validly executed) in relation to documents which have been signed electronically in accordance with the ETA.
The determination came into effect on 6 May 2020 and is automatically repealed after 6 months. Our updated website article explains electronic execution of documents in Australia in more detail.
Victoria: electronic signing and “remote” witnessing permitted
On 12 May 2020, regulations were introduced in Victoria which, until 25 October 2020, permit the use of audio-visual links to “remotely” witness various types of documents, including deeds, mortgages, statutory declarations, powers of attorney and wills.
The regulations also permit use of electronic signatures to sign documents including deeds, mortgages, statutory declarations, wills and powers of attorney in Victoria, including on counterparts of documents (that is, “split electronic execution”).
Further details of the new Victorian provisions are provided in our website article.
Legislation underpinning the Australian COVIDSafe app passed
The launch on 26 April 2020 of the Australian government’s contact tracing app, COVIDSafe, has raised some privacy concerns within the community. On 14 May 2020 the Privacy Amendment (Public Health Contact Information) Act 2020 (Cth) was passed. This legislation underpins the COVIDSafe app, and amends the Privacy Act. We comment on the legislation in detail in our website article.
Innovation during the COVID-19 disruption
We have observed many and varied initiatives designed to combat the spread of COVID-19. In our website article we comment on innovation in local medical device manufacture and in the design and development of new protective equipment. Our article looks, in particular, at recent regulatory exemptions which support innovation in Australia. Through the Therapeutic Goods (Medical Devices – Ventilators) (COVID-19 Emergency) Exemption 2020 (Cth), the Federal Government has allowed ventilators manufactured in Australia to be lawfully supplied without being listed on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods, provided certain conditions are met. Additionally, a Victorian and Federal Government-backed consortium of Australian manufacturing companies has begun making ventilators, intending to take advantage of an “interim authorisation” issued by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission which allows medical device manufacturers and suppliers to engage in conduct that may otherwise be considered prohibited cartel conduct.
Our previous publications
Our 6 May 2020 Legal Resource Centre publication is here. In brief, it provides information about:
- Privacy issues and the new Australian COVIDSafe contact tracing app.
- The impact of COVID-19 on obligations arising in IP agreements.
- Using video conference to witness documents in New South Wales.
- The continued operation of the Federal Court of Australia, including “virtual” trials.
- Relief provided by national IP offices. Davies Collison Cave’s website provides a summary of measures being taken by national IP Offices to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. In Australia, until at least 31 May 2020, users impacted by the COVID-19 disruption may apply for “exceptional” extensions of time for many deadlines. More details are provided in Davies Collison Cave’s website article and on the IP Australia website.
- Temporary relief measures for landlords and tenants of eligible commercial leases in Victoria.
- Initiatives for businesses, employees, landlords and tenants implemented by the state governments of Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland.
Our 21 April 2020 Legal Resource Centre publication is here. In brief, it provides information about:
- New tax incentives for certain IP expenditure.
- Privacy issues relating to the Australian government’s (then) planned coronavirus contact tracing app.
- IP licences for technology relating to COVID-19 in the context of the “Open COVID Pledge” and compulsory licences under the Australian Patents Act 1990 (Cth).
- The introduction of a mandatory code of conduct for Australian SME commercial tenancies for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Changes to the Foreign Investment Review Board approval process for the acquisition of developed commercial property or businesses.
- Further interim authorisations granted by the ACCC allowing certain businesses operating in the healthcare sector, the financial lending sector and the health and life insurance industry to develop a coordinated response with their competitors, which, without authorisation, might otherwise constitute prohibited “cartel conduct”.
Our 8 April 2020 Legal Resource Centre publication is here. In brief, it provides information about:
- COVID-19 privacy issues in the workplace.
- Contractual obligations in relation to COVID-19, including force majeure and frustration.
- COVID-19, cartel conduct and ACCC interim authorisations issued to various industries.
- Consumer rights and business obligations regarding COVID-19 event cancellations.
- COVID-19 medicines which have received exemption from registration on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods.
- Changes to Corporations Act, Bankruptcy Act in relation to insolvency and financial distress. Details are set out in the Federal Government’s Fact Sheet.
- Changes to the foreign investment framework which are designed to prevent corporate raiding of distressed Australian companies by foreign investors.
- Estate planning and business succession planning.
Our 31 March 2020 Legal Resource Centre publication is here. In brief, it provides information about:
- The continuing operation of the Australian courts. Up-to-date information is available from the Judicial College website.
- The use of electronic signatures in a remote working Australia.
- ACCC information on the impact of COVID-19 for consumers and businesses. Up-to-date information is available on the ACCC’s dedicated website page.
If you have any queries, please get in touch with one of the principals in our COVID-19 Legal Resource Team:
Dr Gordon Hughes AM
P: +61 3 9254 2582
Craig Finlayson CTA
P: +61 3 9254 2716
P: +61 2 9293 1048