The coalition has made Australia’s nascent cryptocurrency and blockchain sectors an election issue, with a re-elected Morrison Government pledging to introduce a licensing regime for crypto exchanges.
Digital Economy Minister Jane Hume on Monday told an audience at Australian Blockchain Week the industry, with the right regulation, could by 2030 be “as large as $68.4 billion”.
She said cryptocurrency exchanges would have to comply with licensing requirements to receive “the healthy heart-tick of approval” for the industry.
“This will be a top priority in the coalition’s next term of government,” Senator Hume said.
Intermediaries, too, such as traders would have to comply with licensing requirements.
Australia is one of the world’s biggest adopters of cryptocurrency, with surveys suggesting one in five people have owned it at some point. Other surveys have also suggested some do not know how to deal in it or use it.
Senator Hume said the Government could not, and should not, protect investors from market forces, and even from themselves, and attacked Labor for its lack of commitment in the area.
“Crypto values will go up and down, as sure as eggs, and this won’t protect from market volatility, but if they use a licensed Australian exchange, it will deliver on promises,” she said.
“Should the unthinkable happen in May, a Labor government will have a shopping list of legislative priorities (and a) light touch crypto industry will not be on it.”
Senator Hume said regulation should be platform agnostic — a title deed, for example, was treated the same in print and digital format, so it should also be treated as a title deed should it be turned into an NFT.
The proposed guidelines — to which Lisa King, the chief executive of ASX-listed Bitcoin trader DigitalX, responded: “Eureka! We have legislation” — would be minimalist.
“Freedom, opportunity and a fair go is the best way to create innovation. There are a lot of calls for more regulators and cracking down on scams and protecting consumers from every risk,” she said.
“A less confidence government may find it too easy to travel down the path of least resistance, and ban it or abolish it, but kneejerk reactions can lead to red tape and undue restrictions.”