by Jamie Holmes
Two Australian Senators from different political parties teamed up on August 8 to speak at the country’s parliament in Canberra about the promise of blockchain technology, and urged the Reserve Bank of Australia to consider a Bitcoin-esque currency.
Liberal senator Jane Hume and Sam Dastyari, a Senator from the Labor party, have pushed forward blockchain adoption ‘Down Under’ with the formation of the Australian Parliamentary Friends of Blockchain group. The motivation for the group is best explained by Dastyari, who stated that when he first raised the topic of bitcoin in the Senate, one of his colleagues came to him and said: ‘I don’t get what the issue is, don’t they just melt all the coin bits they don’t use?’ The Australian Parliamentary Friends on Blockchain group will provide a much-needed forum for all things related to digital currency.
— Adam Poulton (@adampoulton) August 9, 2017
Hume told the attendes on August 8, “The opportunities for government, academia, and the private sector are enormous,” while Dastyari stated the importance of the blockchain in light of Australia’s declining advantages in producing goods with the ascent of Asian economies. He highlighted that bitcoin has become a ‘serious player’ in the financial space and that Australia risks being left behind, as other countries in the region, such as China and Singapore, are actively looking at digitizing their currencies:
“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.”
Having a national, blockchain-based currency would confer many benefits, such as clamping down on the informal economy. The chairman of the Australian Digital Currency Commerce Association (ADCA), Ronald Tucker, stated that quicker settlement times and foreign currency exchanges would also be realized. Furthermore, chief executive of ADCA, Nicholas Giurietto, commented that the existing architecture of systems must be rethought and expressed his optimistic outlook for the future on the formation of the Parliamentary Friends of Blockchain group:
“I hope that the formation of the Parliamentary Friends of Blockchain comes to be seen as a key moment when Australian business and government came together to press the accelerator pedal on blockchain adoption.”
In March 2017, Australia spearheaded an initiative to standardize practices surrounding blockchain technology, while more recently, the MIT’s Blockcerts was taken on by the University of Sydney, which uses the blockchain to secure and verify student records. The thaw in the frosty reception to bitcoin and blockchain technology seemed to continue progressing throughout 2017, as the formation of the Parliamentary Friends of Blockchain group follows on from the May 2017 reversal of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) applied to cryptocurrency.
With the manufacturing sector declining since the Global Financial Crisis, Australia hopes to capitalize on its comparative advantage in financial services by pioneering distributed ledger technology; support from across the political spectrum is required for this ambition to be achieved, as noted by Dastyari:
“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.”