Home / Blog / Australia’s Blockchain Roadmap Isn’t Music to Everyone’s Ears, Draws Criticism

Australia’s Blockchain Roadmap Isn’t Music to Everyone’s Ears, Draws Criticism

Australia’s Blockchain Roadmap Isn’t Music to Everyone’s Ears, Draws Criticism

So far, 2020 has been a 12 months of cryptocurrency regulation: The European Union, the United Kingdom and Singapore have formally launched their approaches to the burgeoning trade. Now, Australia has revealed its nationwide roadmap, hoping to turn out to be a worldwide blockchain chief. 

Last Friday, Australia’s Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources launched the nationwide blockchain roadmap — a 50-page doc that defines how blockchain know-how may benefit the native financial system over the subsequent 5 years. 

The paper, developed at the side of trade contributors, oversees numerous particular fields the place the know-how may show helpful, particularly Know Your Customer-related procedures and wine export. What does this imply for the native cryptocurrency and blockchain trade, and the way has the Australian authorities been regulating it thus far?

“Sensible, watchful stance”: What crypto laws has Australia launched thus far?

Prior to the roadmap’s launch, the Australian authorities had already taken measures to regulate cryptocurrencies, particularly within the context of digital asset buying and selling. In April 2018, the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre, an company that primarily offers with tax evasion, cash laundering and different types of monetary crime, applied new laws for digital forex trade operators within the nation. 

The doc required them to register with the authority and keep a compliant AML/KYC coverage. That occasion is talked about within the newly issued roadmap. “Australia was among the first countries in the world to introduce AML/CTF regulation for DCEs,” it reads. “The regulations have been welcomed by DCE providers and are helping to improve trust in cryptocurrencies.”

Adrian Przelozny, CEO of Sydney-based crypto trade Independent Reserve, confirms that market contributors had been usually happy with that provision. He advised Cointelegraph: 

“The regulations imposed by AUSTRAC were implemented after a robust industry consultation period and have generally been welcomed by the Australian crypto industry.”

However, Przelozny specified that operating a cryptocurrency enterprise just isn’t straightforward “in a broader sense,” referring to hidden challenges associated to steady banking options, regulation and compliance.

“From a regulatory perspective, Australia is a relatively permissive jurisdiction,” Asher Tan, CEO of Australian crypto trade CoinJar, summed up in a dialog with Cointelegraph, thereby echoing Przelozny’s sentiment. 

As for different crypto regulatory initiatives which have been undertaken in Australia, in July 2017, the Department of the Treasury eliminated the double taxation of fine and providers tax on digital currencies, therefore treating them “similar to cash” in that regard. Prior to that, cryptocurrency customers had to pay GST twice: as soon as they purchased a digital forex, and as soon as once more when buying items and providers topic to the GST. “The Government will make it easier for new innovative digital currency businesses to operate in Australia,” the abstract revealed on the federal government’s web site learn.

More not too long ago, all through 2019, the Treasury researched the alternatives and dangers related to preliminary coin choices in Australia, and the way such choices must be taxed, though no concrete reforms have been launched by the company in that discipline thus far. Instead, ICOs in Australia are regulated by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, which oversees them underneath the Corporations Act 2001 and the Australian Securities and Investments Commissions Act 2001.

Moreover, in 2019 the Australian Taxation Office revealed a steerage framework on the taxation on cryptocurrencies. Essentially, it defines Bitcoin (BTC) and different cryptocurrencies as types of property which are taxable. The company’s deputy commissioner Will Day has additionally explicitly acknowledged that tax evasion through cryptocurrencies is “not a victimless crime.”

The newly issued roadmap additionally acknowledges cryptocurrencies, as they’re straight talked about quite a few occasions. Moreover, the report doesn’t draw a transparent line between digital belongings and blockchain know-how, though the know-how itself is clearly prioritized within the doc.

According to Alex Sims, an affiliate professor on the University of Auckland Business School and analysis fellow on the UCL Centre for Blockchain Technologies, the Australian authorities has taken “a sensible, watchful stance” towards cryptocurrencies. 

In an e mail trade with Cointelegraph, Sims pressured that the Australian Senate referred an inquiry about digital currencies to the Senate Economics as early as 2014, suggesting that the nation had began researching the subject lengthy earlier than the 2017 mania. She additionally argued that a few of the authorities’s reforms appear comparatively crypto-friendly: 

“The Australian Government actually encouraged the use of cryptocurrency by removing GST when cryptocurrency was purchased. As the Roadmap shows, it isn’t unduly concerned that Australian businesses are accepting cryptocurrency as a form of payment.”

Australian politicians appeared much more passionate about blockchain. As the native prime minister, Scott Morrison, mentioned again in 2017, his nation was “strongly pursuing” the know-how. The new roadmap largely confirms that aspiration. 

National Blockchain Roadmap: a five-year plan — wine export is a precedence

The current launch of the nationwide blockchain roadmap adopted a close to year-long preparation. In March 2019, the minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Simon Birmingham, and the minister for Industry, Science and Technology, Karen Andrews, collectively introduced the event of a nationwide blockchain roadmap with a lift of round $71,200 (100,000 Australian dollars) in funding from the federal authorities to make Australia a worldwide chief in blockchain. 

On Feb. 7, 2020, the doc was revealed, aiming to promote Australia’s nascent blockchain trade. The nation’s wine, banking and finance industries have been chosen as the important thing precedence sectors. According to Minister Andrews, the roadmap will pave the best way for researchers, startups and policymakers within the blockchain sector, which is about to be value round $175 billion.

Per the roadmap’s highlights, the blockchain has the aptitude to strengthen export alternatives, enabling home producers to hint their items in provide chains and agriculture, particularly when it comes to the wine trade. Australian wine is likely one of the most worthwhile export merchandise within the nation. In 2019, Australia’s wine export quantity reportedly grew by three% to $1.9 billion.

“As blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger, it can be beneficial for many industries that require ‘record-keeping’ due to its immutability and transparency,” Leigh Travers, government director at Australia-based DigitalX Limited, one of many first cryptocurrency corporations to be traded on a serious inventory trade, advised Cointelegraph, including: 

“Blockchain will, and in a way already is, transforming the agricultural industry by tracking produce from farm to plate.”

The worth of KYC

There can be a powerful give attention to the sharing of KYC info that permits transmitting outcomes of KYC checks “securely, at speed and with the highest level of confidence.” The roadmap’s authors cite a report written by Big Four agency KPMG that implies 80% of KYC/AML sources are spent on info gathering and processing fairly than on estimating precise danger — and argues that blockchain know-how will considerably reduce prices and ease communication in that regard.

In addition, the doc seeks to arrange the National Blockchain Roadmap Steering Committee and “establish a collaborative model comprising working groups of industry, the research sector and government to progress analysis on the next use cases.”

Essentially, the roadmap is Australia’s entry into the worldwide blockchain adoption race, Dr. Jemma Green, co-founder and government chairman at Power Ledger, an Australian blockchain-enabled vitality buying and selling platform, advised Cointelegraph: 

“To date, greater than $26 billion has been raised in capital markets for blockchain firms, and Australia has acquired lower than 1% of this. Australia’s startup capital markets are already challenged and addressing laws to make Australia a vacation spot to base blockchain firms — important to getting a much bigger piece of the capital elevating pie […] If decisive motion isn’t taken, then the blockchain Googles and Apples of tomorrow might be based mostly outdoors of Australia.”

Some consultants are usually not impressed with the brand new roadmap’s content material, nonetheless. In an e mail despatched to Cointelegraph, Cal Evans, founding father of compliance and technique agency Gresham International, argued that Australia’s blockchain technique isn’t in depth sufficient:

“Australia could benefit with the deployment of blockchain in so many industries. There are numerous industries that can be government-lead including medical, transport and defense. Focusing on the wine industry feels more like the government of Australia is honestly unsure of blockchain and does not want to testbed it in a key area (such as transport or defense).”

Similarly, FinTech Australia chairman and member of the federal authorities’s fintech advisory group Alan Tsen advised the Australian Financial Review that the roadmap “lacked vision,” whereas the “use cases read like they had been written by a consulting firm,” including:

“The most disappointing element was the regulatory analysis. It hinted at a few areas that could be further developed but didn’t suggest how this could be done or what should be put on the road map of regulatory change.”

Nonetheless, most Australian blockchain trade representatives, Green included, are happy with the brand new doc — in any case, it has been developed collaboratively with trade, college and authorities representatives. As Katrina Donaghy, co-founder of an area blockchain startup Civic Ledger, advised the Sydney Morning Herald, over 150 startup members confirmed up in individual to session conferences, which apparently “shocked” the federal government. Travers advised Cointelegraph:

“We were fortunate to have the CEO Nicholas Giurietto of Blockchain Australia contribute heavily to the roadmap. He said to me this morning ‘It’s everything we wanted,’ so I am so pleased that the industry contribution was acknowledged and delivered to by the National Government.”

Despite Andrews’s earlier claims that the roadmap will entail a lift of round $71,200 in funding from the federal authorities, no such figures are talked about within the doc. It does state, nonetheless, that the Australian Government “has invested in a wide range of blockchain-related activities to date.” 

“There was a Labor Party pledge for AU$3 million to invest in blockchain, but their election pitch ultimately wasn’t successful,” Travers of DigitalX advised Cointelegraph when reminded that the federal government has ostensibly not but allotted any funds to blockchain roadmap implementation. He went on to add:

“With the Blockchain APAC conference coming up in April, there will be a strong focus on establishing a financial link to the blockchain academy, and it’s clear there is a commitment to the technology in Australia.”

Blockchain roadmap with no framework to lean on — how environment friendly will that be? 

Essentially, the roadmap is a session doc, or a information to motion, however just isn’t as compulsory as a regulatory framework can be, Konstantinos Stylianou, assistant professor of competitors regulation and regulation on the University of Leeds, defined to Cointelegraph: 

“The national blockchain roadmap is an aspirational document that lays out the government’s vision on how to maximize blockchain’s promise for the country. It is not binding, and it does not contain specific actionable points, just general steps and priorities.”

In Stylianou’s view, Australia’s blockchain technique “is more or less” aligned with these of different international locations, like Germany or the Netherlands, and it lists targets which are “hard to disagree with,” like a rise of investments, upkeep of competitors, respect for privateness and so forth. However, he’s not sure that it’s going to make a drastic distinction with out correct authorized backup:

“Things like blockchain-friendly finance regulations, legal certainty on smart contracts and whether cryptos are property, public-private partnerships etc. can be catalytic in accelerating blockchain adoption, and we’re not seeing much of that yet.” 

Some native trade contributors would agree with that assertion. Tan, CEO of CoinJar, argues that the roadmap is a good step ahead for the trade, including: “However, immediate action is still needed in order to push through meaningful legislation that can provide certainty and allow for Australian blockchain innovation to flourish.”

Nonetheless, different Australian trade contributors appear assured concerning the roadmap as is. “With the rapid changes to the industry with DeFi, security tokens and international policy amendments, it is impossible to have a clear regulatory framework for this industry today,”  DigitalX’s Travers mentioned when requested whether or not he would like to see a definitive framework as an alternative of a roadmap. 

“The roadmap is a positive development,” agrees Green from Power Ledger. “It focuses on areas key to building a strong foundation for blockchain adoption — regulation, skills capability, innovation and collaboration.”

Given that the Australian authorities had already launched some fundamental regulatory measures for crypto by the point the nationwide blockchain technique was unveiled, evidently it might certainly assist the nation to assert itself within the international blockchain race — however the restricted variety of use instances means that the plan is perhaps in the end inadequate or incomplete. 

Meanwhile, the truth that cryptocurrencies are talked about within the roadmap appears to verify that it isn’t an excessive “blockchain-before-Bitcoin” type of case the place the federal government utterly shuts down all digital belongings, which is advantageous for Australia’s many crypto companies.

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