Australia’s new government said on Monday it will do a virtual stocktake of the country’s cryptocurrency holdings, before moving to regulate the sector.
Treasurer Jim Chalmers said that his department would undertake “token mapping,” to catalogue the types and uses of digital currency owned within the country, as a first step to identify which cryptocurrency assets to regulate, and how.
Australia would be the first country in the world to conduct such an exercise, he added in a statement.
“With the increasingly widespread proliferation of crypto assets, to the extent that crypto advertisements can be seen plastered all over big sporting events, we need to make sure customers engaging with crypto are adequately informed and protected,” Chalmers said.
Australia has wrestled for years with the question of how to regulate cryptocurrency – money that is regulated by decentralised computer networks, rather than central banks.
Calls for intervention have increased since 2020 when Covid stimulus payments and home working prompted a surge in the sector’s popularity.
Last year, a Senate inquiry under the previous conservative government recommended wide-ranging regulations to protect cryptocurrency owners, but the Morrison government lost an election in May before any new laws were put in place.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission has also said it wants the sector regulated, citing its research that found 44% of retail investors held cryptocurrency in late 2021.
Chalmers, the treasurer, did not specify any planned regulations on Monday, but said the token mapping exercise would be “the first step in a reform agenda”.
- Reuters with additional editing by Jim Pollard