Local sources in Australia including the Sydney Morning Herald report that Labor and Coalition senators have officially requested that the Reserve Bank of Australia legalize and adopt bitcoin as an official form of currency.
Bitcoin Down Under
Labor senator Sam Dastyari and Liberal senator Jane Hume announced that their bipartisan push had crossed the political divide and awaits final approval from the country’s central bank. The two senators also told the Reserve Bank of Australia that the failure to acknowledge bitcoin as an official form of currency could severely damage the competitiveness of the Australian financial services industry.
Senator Dastyari stated:
“The question for Australia is are we going to follow or are we going to lead. We need to find a bipartisan way of doing this. We can’t compete with our Asian neighbours when it comes to producing cheap goods and services anymore. We can compete when it comes to financial services but that is going to mean big, bold decisions. This will be a revolutionary leap for the Reserve Bank and for Australian financial institutions, what we want to do here in Parliament is to create the political environment to allow that leap [for an Australian bitcoin blockchain] to occur.”
For the most part, Senator Dastyari’s statement is accurate. In 2015, when major banks abruptly closed the bank accounts of local bitcoin and cryptocurrency startups and service providers, most companies within the Australian bitcoin and blockchain sector left the country for more regulatory-friendly countries like Singapore, Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong.
At the time, Australian Digital Currency Commerce Association chairman Ron Tucker explained, “Our members have said the banks have been remarkably unwilling to provide explanations for ceasing to provide services for ADCCA members. Our members, some of whom may end up being partners with or competitors to the banks in the future, are currently at the mercy of established financial institutions.”
Since then, Australia’s bitcoin, blockchain and fintech industries have struggled to grow at a consistent rate while Singapore, Hong Kong and other Asian countries have continued demonstrating exponential growth. Indeed, many Asian countries have developed leading cryptocurrency exchange markets and industries with practical and efficient regulations.
Earlier this year, in an attempt to recover its fintech and bitcoin industries, the Australian government announced the elimination of double taxation on bitcoin. It also noted that bitcoin will be considered to be a legal commodity and settlement network. In its official 2017-2018 budget report, the Australian government vowed to create an improved ecosystem for bitcoin businesses and to treat bitcoin just like other forms of money.
“The Government will make it easier for new innovative digital currency businesses to operate in Australia. From 1 July 2017, purchases of digital currency will no longer be subject to the GST, allowing digital currencies to be treated just like money for GST purposes,” read the report.
In the upcoming months, once the bipartisan proposal is approved by the government, bitcoin will likely be recognized as an official currency in Australia.