Australia has the chance to grab a regional leadership role in the crypto industry if it gets regulation right, speakers at Australian Blockchain Week 2022 have said.

Speakers like FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried, NSW Senator Andrew Bragg, BTC Markets chief executive Caroline Bowler and Blockchain Australia CEO Steve Vallas have made the case that crypto is a mature, responsible industry ready to willing to provide clarity and consumer protection for everyday users.

FTX Australia launching

Bankman-Fried used his keynote address to announce the launch of FTX Australia, a local version of one of the world’s leading cryptocurrency exchanges.

Aussies have already been able to access the international version of FTX but the local one will be licensed and regulated here and based in Sydney. It has obtained an Australian Financial Services Licence (AFSL) via an acquisition.

“This is something that has been in the works for a number of months, and it’s been a really high priority for us as a company,” he said.

Australia is someplace “we’ve seen a ton of demand coming from, and we’re really excited to be able to service it better,” Bankman-Fried said. The country has a “giant economy,” and a really developed regulatory system, he said.

FTX Australia’s launch is part of a larger push by FTX to get licensed and regulated in as much as the world as possible, which is “by far” FTX’s biggest priority as a company, Bankman-Fried said.

“I think what’s the single most important thing for moving the industry forward is being able to work productively with policymakers, with regulators,” he said.

Bankman-Fried, 30, addressed the event remotely, from what looked to be his bed (or possibly a sofa) in the Bahamas, where he said he was located because it was one of the only jurisdictions in the world that has released a comprehensive framework for crypto regulations.

That’s caused a big influx of business into the region, he said.

“I think the world is very much looking for a regional hub for crypto in APAC right now,” Bankman-Fried said.

There’s been a number of thoughts over what that hub might be, but they haven’t played out as expected, Bankman-Fried said, “which I think has really left an opening for someplace to kind of grab that and service that region”.

“We’d love to work with regulators and lawmakers on understanding the crypto ecosystem and build out regulatory frameworks for analysing them, and doing everything we can to bring a robust healthy crypto ecosystem to Australia, but also where consumers are protected,” he said.

“We’d just love to be a resource for Australia in thinking about how to build out a regulatory framework for crypto, what the tradeoffs are … and everything else that goes into making Australia a global hub for cryptocurrencies.”

‘DAOs could replace companies’

Earlier on Monday morning, crypto-friendly Liberal Senator Andrew Bragg told Blockchain Week that several items emerging from his Senate inquiry last year would be acted on today, including a board of tax review and action on “debanking”.

“So that is a significant down payment,” he said. “I know many people were concerned that the (federal) election would happen, and we wouldn’t have been able to put more meat on the bones. But I think it was very important that we signal to you, the members of Blockchain Australia, that…we were serious about this.”

Another recommendation of Bragg’s inquiry was legally recognising decentralised autonomous organisations, or DAOs — a form of crypto-collectives governed by tokenholders.

“DAOs could replace companies,” Bragg said. “It might be the most significant development since joint stock companies were floated on the Amsterdam Stock Exchange some 400 years ago.”

That raises the risk of “mass tax leakage,” he said, which could be particularly problematic for Australia given that it depends more on corporate taxes than other developed countries.

However, Bragg added that he wasn’t afraid of advocating for radical tax changes to ensure Australia had a competitive system.

‘A mainstream moment’

Blockchain Australia chief executive Steve Vallas opened the event at the ASX saying that crypto is enjoying a “mainstream moment” that is “happening everywhere.”

“Where is Australia? We are filled with promise and opportunity — the question is whether or not we can be the country that takes advantage of that.”

“Let’s have a nuanced conversation,” he said. “Let’s move away from the narratives that were prevalent in 2017 and 2018 to 2019. It’s not the dark web. It’s not just criminals moving things across borders. It’s not too slow. You know, it’s not ‘a nothing’.”

The crypto industry wants to work with the regulators, he said. “We are leading the conversation with the government.”

Blockchain Week continues through Friday, with events today and tomorrow in Sydney before shifting to Queensland on Wednesday and then moving on to Melbourne.

While only about 200 attended this opening session in person, Vallas said the event was five-times oversubscribed and Covid restrictions had kept it small.