Page 1349 - Week 04 - Tuesday, 27 March 2012

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Electronic Transactions Amendment Bill 2012

Debate resumed from 23 February 2012, on motion by Mr Corbell:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (4.34): The Liberal opposition will support the Electronic Transactions Amendment Bill 2012. This bill adopts model legislation to reflect internationally recognised standards on international e-commerce and to apply the same standards to domestic e-commerce.

The genesis of the bill was model legislation agreed to by the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General with a view to Australia’s adoption of a UN convention. Once all Australian jurisdictions have the legislation in place, the commonwealth will be able to accede formally to the convention. This convention will come into force once three countries have accepted it. Presently only Honduras and Singapore have acceded to the convention, so Australia could be the country that brings it into force.

In essence, the bill makes a range of technical or mechanical amendments to update the approach taken to electronic transactions. There are revamped sections dealing, firstly, with the validity and effect of electronic signatures, including when an electronic signature may not signify agreement to the entire contents of an electronic communication and, secondly, with the timing of sending and receiving electronic communications.

The bill creates a new part 2A, extending its application to both domestic and international contracts. To this extent the bills steps outside the UN convention, but it is logical to have consistent treatment of the two. Part 2A deals, firstly, with the invitation to treat, including situations in which, for example, an email is sent to multiple recipients carrying an invitation to submit offers. Secondly, the use of an automated message system will not, in itself, make a contract invalid, void or unenforceable. Thirdly, part 2A provides some latitude for the correction of errors.

The spiralling use of the so-called super highway in transacting business in Australia and around the world needs to have legislative support. This bill seeks to achieve that. We will support it with one caveat. Inevitably, legal challenges will arise. Inevitably, some opportunistic, dishonest people will misuse and rort the system to gain an advantage. It will be interesting to see how this law and this convention stand up to judicial scrutiny. It will be particularly interesting to see how the legal system will deal with issues relating to the correction of errors and automated message systems. That having been said, Madam Assistant Speaker, the Canberra Liberals will support the Electronic Transactions Amendment Bill 2012.

MR RATTENBURY (Molonglo) (4.36): The Greens will be supporting this bill. It makes amendments to improve the existing law that applies to contracts entered into using electronic communications with parties overseas. The amendments are designed to base our legislation more closely on the UN Convention on the Use of Electronic

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