Branson calls for tougher regulation on Australian bitcoin

Virgin Group founder Richard Branson has called for tougher regulation and taxation laws on the controversial Bitcoin industry in Australia.

Branson singled out next month’s G20 Summit as a key platform for discussions, noting that bitcoin is disrupting the finance sector because customers are not satisfied with current major payment networks.

Sir Richard discussed bitcoin regulation in an op-ed for Bitcoin lobby group Australian Digital Currency Commerce Association on Tuesday.

“Making sure that conversations around this are happening at the highest level will hopefully result in common-sense reforms to areas such as taxation and law enforcement, which will be of real benefit to all concerned,” he wrote.

“It’s crucial that everyone has the understanding and access to enable it [digital currencies] to work for them,” he added.

Australian senator Sam Dastyari is heading a Senate inquiry into bitcoin regulation and has said he will ask Sir Richard to appear at the committee.

Invitations to participate have been sent to 74 different organisations, including the big four Australian banks.

Sir Richard is understood to have pumped around $US30 million ($34 million) into bitcoin ventures to date. Over $3 billion was poured into technology start-ups and entrepreneurs last year alone, and the figure is expected to grow to $8 billion by 2018.

Nearly $11 million has been invested in Australian cryptocurrency ventures during the year to July.

Local bitcoin exchanges such as Independent Reserve, which launched last month, depend on a stable ­regulatory environment to maintain legitimacy. Bitcoin Group, a ­Melbourne-based arbitrage fund, is hoping to list on the Australian ­Securities Exchange this month and has also called on the government to develop a framework within which it can operate.­

Sir Richard argued that while there was an appetite for a strongly enforced ­central government rulebook on bitcoins, there were also merits to ­self-regulation, which is a model touted by local bitcoin lobby group, The Australian Digital Currency ­Commerce Association.

Ron Tucker, chairman of ADCCA, had previously said the Senate inquiry was a critical step in putting Australia ahead over virtual currency regulation.

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