Aussie opposition under fire as election looms

Australia’s opposition Labor party is facing criticism over its lack of formal policy regarding the cryptocurrency industry just days before a national election is expected to be called

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, from the Liberal Party, is expected to fire the starters pistol for a Federal election this weekend. However, the Australian Labor Party (ALP) is well ahead in the polls at this stage and their crypto policies are less than comprehensive.

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With at least 18% of Australians having invested in crypto at some point according to new figures from Gemini, cryptocurrency is becoming an election issue that cannot be ignored.

Crypto venture capitalist Mark Carnegie said at the Australian Financial Review Cryptocurrency Summit this week that he believes crypto should be a key talking point for the election candidates. “The idea that the Labor Party does not have a policy about what we’re doing about this, it just shows you the failure of leadership,” he said.

Shadow Minister for Financial Services Stephen Jones pushed back against the appraisal and said that if the ALP won, it would consider crypto in a wider overhaul of digital payments, such as Apple and Google’s wallets.

“The broad principles we would take to crypto regulation is safety and transparency… That inevitably leads to greater regulation of exchanges.”

Jones also said the ALP would look to include cryptocurrency as a financial product, which would bring it under the purview of the Australia Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).

Responding to the headline of an AFR report on the matter Government Senator Andrew Bragg tweeted: “7 words is not a crypto policy.”

Senator Bragg headed up an Australian Senate Committee inquiry last year that recommended broad, sweeping reforms in crypto legislation. In December, the government announced it was in favor of six out of nine reformsttee, including a licensing regime for crypto exchanges, laws to govern decentralized autonomous organizations, and a common access regime for new payments platforms.

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It is unclear whether the ALP will seek to embrace the proposed reforms if it wins Government. Jones did not respond to a request for comment from Cointelegraph, but we will update the story if he does.

Senator Bragg believes the Opposition is ill-equipped to handle the crypto industry. He told Cointelegraph today that: “Simply put, the Opposition doesn’t have a policy on cryptocurrency.”

“Labor has no serious agenda for digital assets other than a few throwaway lines. The Australian people have been given no clue on what Labor’s crypto policy. It’s consistent with their economic plan which is no plan.”

Senator Bragg added that the ALP’s lack of clear direction for the crypto industry, meant the country could begin to fall behind other countries vying for skilled workers in the crypto industry.

“Australia risks losing investment and talent to other countries unless we act quickly. The Coalition’s policy puts us ahead of the race, the ALP’s policy void means Australia will lose out.”

He said that his party’s plan includes holding consultations with industry stakeholders before making any final decisions, but that his cohort is “ready to follow through” with action. “We want a regime for markets and custody, a board of tax review, and a token mapping exercise. All of these programs are currently underway,” he said.

Rather than treating crypto as a financial product, the Liberal plan appears to take an educate-then-incubate approach toward crypto policy.

Related: Aussie convenience store giant to accept crypto at 170 outlets

However, a top-down approach towards regulating emerging or innovative markets has always been questioned by entrepreneurs, as pointed out by Max Parasol in Cointelegraph last October.