AUSTRALIA is set to vote in parliament tomorrow on whether to make bitcoin legal, and the government says it will not ban the digital currency as it “doesn’t play into the market”.
In an announcement today, Minister for Finance Josh Frydenberg said: “The Government will not be taking any action to restrict access to bitcoin, nor will we ban it outright.”
Frydenberg’s comments come a day after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said it was considering whether the digital money is a commodity.
The ACCC is also considering whether bitcoin could be regulated as a commodity, which could mean the country would be allowed to levy a “high duty” on bitcoin.
Under the proposed changes, businesses that accept payments in bitcoin would have to register with the ACCC, and businesses accepting payments in other currencies would have their businesses “held to account for any actions taken to enforce this obligation”.
The move could mean businesses that have a virtual currency business or use it to pay employees could be forced to report the payments to the ACCCs.
The move comes as the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) issued its first bitcoin regulation, a statement of principles which says: “Bitcoin transactions may not be undertaken in contravention of any law, rule or regulation, including any rules or regulations issued by ASIC.”
“While some jurisdictions have enacted laws that expressly or implicitly permit bitcoin transactions, this does not mean that all jurisdictions have adopted the same interpretation of those laws,” ASIC said.
The ACCCs statement of principle was released after the regulator said it had begun reviewing how it would regulate bitcoin.
“As we have concluded that bitcoin is not a commodity and that bitcoin transactions may be undertaken outside of Australia, we will consider whether to issue regulations governing bitcoin and whether to consider whether or not to impose a high duty,” ASIC wrote in a statement.
The announcement follows a statement by the Treasurer on Tuesday, when he said that the Government was considering a range of new regulatory measures that would affect the use of bitcoin and digital currencies.
The Treasurer, Scott Morrison, said the Government would not be adopting the “bitcoin ban” of the past, but would be “taking a very, very hard look at” new proposals.
“It’s not the same thing as banning it, it’s just different in that you can’t just ban it because you want to,” he said.
“The thing that is different about this is that the Australian government is not the regulator.
We are not going to have a ban, we’re not going, we are not even going to ban it and the Government is not going [to] go out and ban it.”
In a statement on Tuesday morning, the Treasurer said the new proposals would “help protect Australians from criminals using bitcoin and other digital currencies to commit crimes”.
“The Government is working with other relevant stakeholders to develop a range to deal with a range or different types of fraud and cybercrime, and will provide more detail on those when we have that information,” he added.