Australian election & crypto: what you need to know
With the election less than a week away, and with pre-polling already open, it’s important Australians be given some insight about what the outcome may mean for crypto. There are three possible outcomes from next week’s election: a Labor Majority, a Coalition Majority or a minority government with minor parties and independents having the balance of power.
No matter who is in power following 21 May, there will undoubtedly be an impact on the speed of crypto adoption in Australia.
The current Coalition government has been highly critical of the ALP’s stance on crypto. In early April, Senator Bragg tweeted that “7 words is not a crypto policy” in response to an Australian Financial Review article titled “Labor wants stronger consumer protections for crypto” (the seven words in question). This article examines the accuracy of the Coalition’s attacks, or whether there is more depth to the ALP’s stance on crypto.
A Labor Majority
The top result from a Google search of “Anthony Albanese AND Crypto” shows a link to the LinkedIn profile of a very different Anthony Albanese, who is the COO and Managing Partner of Andreessen Horowitz, the highly esteemed American venture capital firm that is well known for its crypto investments. The opposition leader would be well placed to seek out his namesake (who joined Andreessen Horowitz from the New York Stock Exchange, where he was the chief regulatory officer) for advice about crypto policy, particularly given the Australian opposition leader himself appears only once on the first page of Google results. It doesn’t seem to be a subject he’s particularly vocal or aware of.
By comparison, Scott Morrison appears in every single first page Google result. Certainly, it would be unfair to judge the depth of the ALP’s policy related to crypto purely on the basis of a Google search. However, it is telling that there is seemingly no record on the internet of a quotation pertaining to crypto, or blockchain more broadly, that can be attributed to the opposition leader.
The same cannot be said for Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers. A piece published to Chalmers’ website in 2016 is titled ‘Australia Cannot Afford to Miss the ‘Blockchain’ Revolution.’ In the final paragraph he writes,
“Ignoring blockchain today would be like still having to teach kids how many pence make up a shilling make up a pound. Australia can’t afford to be left behind.”
Chalmers’ stance should be reassuring to the crypto industry. It is clear that the Shadow treasurer appreciated relatively early the revolutionary potential of crypto and blockchain technology. He writes,
“However it evolves, there’s little doubt that blockchain will have huge implications for the way we transact in the digital economy. Correspondingly, Governments will need to monitor and adapt to the challenges of blockchain both to minimise the risks and to maximise the benefits.”
Seemingly, in Chamlers, the ALP has an advocate for the crypto industry who appreciates the need for Governments to take action in respect of crypto in a manner that protects consumers, but also appreciates the technology’s capacity to disrupt.
More recently, Chalmers’ has commented that, in principle, the ALP supports, “sensible measures that would protect consumers, ease pressures for small business, make the rules and regulations clear and support investment and innovation.”
Certainly, the Coalition’s proposed policies have more depth than the ALP, however to date there has been no legislative change enacted by the Government in the approach taken to crypto. A spokesman for Labor, Stephen Jones has defended the lack of depth in ALP crypto policies. He explained to the Australian Financial Review that budget constraints mean that he has only one economic adviser advising him on the entire financial services and superannuation portfolio. Whereas the government has a bureaucracy of thousands of advisers and regulators and is still formulating its crypto policies.
There is nothing to suggest in what the ALP has proposed thus far that the party’s approach to crypto would differ greatly from the Coalition. There is certainly no need for grave concern amongst the crypto industry that a Labor Government would represent a step backward in respect of the embracing of digital assets.
A Coalition Majority
A Coalition majority will see the status quo surrounding crypto regulation adoption stay the same. Voters will likely continue to see Senator Andrew Bragg as the main face of the Coalition’s crypto stance. Senator Jane Hume is another voice for crypto in the Coalition’s ranks. Bragg and Hume make for a dynamic duo in their combined support of Treasurer Josh Frydenberg. The two have been a fixture on the Blockchain and Crypto speaking circuit, never failing to miss an opportunity to tout the Coalition’s support of the industry.
The Coalition’s latest move in respect of crypto regulation was to release a consultation paper in relation to the licensing and custody requirements for crypto asset secondary service providers. Responses to the consultation paper are not due until after the election, and it remains to be seen what will become of the paper if the Coalition are not in power.
A Coalition majority will certainly see the continuation of a consistent approach to crypto regulation. The Coalition of course have the reputation as the pro-business party and have to date demonstrated a relatively receptive attitude to crypto adoption. Realistically, over the past three years under Scott Morrison, the Coalition have not passed any substantial regulation relating to crypto. The main achievement of the Government has been in demonstrating a commitment to consult with industry and to have a well-considered approach when they eventually move to legislate.
A Minority Government
A minority government is undoubtedly the worst outcome for the crypto industry. A minority Government presents uncertainty for all industries, however, in crypto’s case the consequences may be dire. While with a Labor majority there is nothing to suggest that there would be opposition to the new Government continuing the work of the Coalition. But such an outcome is far more unlikely in a scenario when the balance of power falls to independents.
Crypto certainly is a divisive topic for anyone that is environmentally minded, and for many of the independents who are projected to win seats this election, Climate Action is a pivotal issue.
Overall, a minority fovernment makes for an uncertain future for Australian Crypto regulation. Uncertainty is the last thing the crypto industry needs. After years of waiting for certainty, a minority government means three more years of waiting.