Blockchain Australia, an association that represents the local cryptocurrency sector, has warned that the nation has dropped behind on the regulatory front as a result of the undue persistence of a dismissive ‘wild west’ narrative.
The industry body went on to accuse the government of leaning into various narratives about scams and malicious actors, instead of engaging with the blockchain industry to create a fit-for-purpose regulation infrastructure.
For months now, the association has been proactive in its methods of engaging the state as the government keeps reviewing the future of fintech, blockchain, and regulations in the country.
While appearing before the Senate Select Committee on Australia as a Technology and Financial Centre in the past week, Steve Vallas, Blockchain Australia CEO, said that the association mainly resists the idea that the cryptocurrency industry remains “a bit of a wild west” and has been “very deliberately asking for the regulators to engage with us.”
He traced the narrative’s emergence to the 2017-2018 ICO boom and accused the government of responding to the phenomenon with an excessively passive “wait and see” approach:
“The landscape […] today is entirely different. We don’t see an appetite within Australia for ICOs, we don’t see the regulators comfortable allowing that to happen again, so we have a new chapter, but the narrative has persisted. […] when people don’t understand the space, the tendency is to lean in on the wild west, to lean in on nefarious and bad actors.”
Vallas’ argument was widely echoed by one partner at the Australian law firm Piper Alderman, Michael Acima, who specializes in digital law with a major focus on fintech, regtech, blockchain, and the digital assets industry.
But unlike Vallas, Acima drew a close parallel between the situation in some other jurisdictions like the United States and Australia’s regulatory lag. In the earlier case, he alleged that in cases like crypto exchange-related crimes, people are:
“effectively reading the tea leaves of what prosecutions have occurred to try and understand.”
After Vallas and Acima commented, the managing director at Genesis Block, Chloe White, told the committee that the Australian government has focused most of its energies on the sector only intermittently and mainly at times of hype.
Instead of engaging with the nascent space in the quiet periods, the local policymakers have failed to set up a good understanding of the sector and its trajectory. In turn, they have remained in a highly reactive position where policy advice and analysis have been concerned.
Earlier in the year, Conservative Australian senator Andrew Bragg said that Australia needs to introduce better regulations for cryptocurrency assets if the nation aims to “stay ahead of the game” and enhance tech and financial innovation.