Transcripts

TRANSCRIPT Interview with Patricia Karvelas on ABC RN Breakfast

19 September 2022

Subjects: Stronger cryptocurrency regulation required

E&OE…

Patricia Karvelas

The use of cryptocurrency is on the rise in Australia and the lack of regulation in the sector could threaten national security.  That’s according to Liberal Senator Andrew Bragg who will introduce a Private Member’s Bill which includes a new licensing regime and reporting requirements when Parliament next sits.  Internationally Australia is lagging on regulating cryptocurrency.  This week the US will release a framework on how the sector should be monitored.

Patricia Karvelas

Liberal Senator Andrew Bragg joins me now, welcome back to breakfast.

Senator Bragg

Hi PK.

Patricia Karvelas

You will release your draft Bill today which would see a new licensing regime enacted.  What would that involve?

Senator Bragg

Well, it’s very important that we protect consumers against any unnecessary harm but it’s also important that we protect the country against major risks that may emerge from the development of new cryptocurrencies issued by foreign states.  So, the Bill sets out a set of protections for consumers but also obligations for providers.

Patricia Karvelas

The crypto industry in Australia says it wants stronger regulation in part to increase consumer’s trust.  Why are we so far behind our international peers on this front?

Senator Bragg

Well, there was a bunch of good work done in the last Parliament but unfortunately the Labor Government have not sought to do much in this field.  The Minister, Stephen Jones is more focused on furthering the vested interests that he’s close to like the super funds and unfortunately these issues have fallen by the wayside.  So every day that there is no law to protect consumers in crypto, is another day that people are exposed to unnecessary risk. 

Patricia Karvelas

You chaired a Senate Committee last year and the report had twelve recommendations.  This Bill goes further by seeking to regulate Stablecoins, which are tied to an existing currency and make it an offence to issue one without a licence, why have you gone further? 

Senator Bragg

What we have seen in the last six months or so has been the collapse of major Stablecoins including the US Stablecoin Terra and the Governor of the Reserve Bank in Australia here and Janet Yellen in the US have been calling for regulation, so that if someone wants to issue a Stablecoin, that they are required to hold reserve capital to meet any risk.  Now, the Government has not done anything here, again they have just been focussed on furthering the economic interests of their favourite vested interests.

Patricia Karvelas

Your Bill will also address the rise of Central Bank issued digital currencies, including one from China.  It would place disclosure duties on Chinese Banks.  Does this present a risk to our national security?

Senator Bragg

Well, the Chinese Government is piloting what they call the digital Yuan which is a digital form of currency and they’re currently controlling that outside of China as well with the UAE and Hong Kong and Thailand.  Now that currency if it became wide-spread in the Pacific or even within Australia, would give the Chinese state enormous power, economic and strategic power, that it doesn’t have today and so, I think we need to be prepared for that.  We need to know more about this digital currency and so the Bill establishes reporting requirements in that regard.

Patricia Karvelas

Now, realistically an opposition backbencher getting a Private Member’s Bill passed is obviously pretty slim in terms of likelihood to be frank…

Senator Bragg

I’m an optimist.

Patricia Karvelas

Well, I just think we should call it for what it is, so given that what are you trying to do here?  What is your aim?  Are you trying to force the hand of the government to adopt some of these ideas…

Senator Bragg

Yes… 

Patricia Karvelas

Are you seeking a meeting with Stephen Jones?  What are you trying to do?

Senator Bragg

Well, after four months the government has done nothing here.  A lot of work was done in the last Parliament, so I am trying to show that it would be pretty simple to fix some of these problems.  There are huge consumer risks here I mean, during the Grand Final next week there will be more and more adverts spruiking crypto and it’s all unregulated, so I’m trying to show that it wouldn’t be too hard to achieve regulation here and if the government want to adopt these proposals, that’s very good.  But having said that I will also be talking to my Senate colleagues to see if they’re open to supporting some of these ideas.

Patricia Karvelas

In today’s papers you are defending the stage three tax cuts.  You say the Greens and the Independents are misguided in their calls to drop the package sighting bracket creep and the need for the nation to be competitive, but we also have ballooning costs of services like the NDIS and other issues health, which we know the community wants, so how do you do all that with these policy settings?  Is this really realistic?

Senator Bragg

We shouldn’t be hitting middle income earners and bringing back bracket creep.  I mean we want people to be incentivised to work and therefore, pay more tax over the longer term because they’re going to be in jobs and better jobs.  So, we can’t tax our way out of this economic slump that we’ve been in for the past few years, or this economic shock, the stage three tax cuts are very important to reward incentive and hard work, especially amongst that middle income cohort.

Patricia Karvelas

I just want to park that issue and just bring you to – obviously today’s the - later today – in Australian time at least, is the Queen’s funeral, this week that is going to obviously be quite a big deal.  There’s a lot of discussions now about how that impacts Australia right.  One of the more practical considerations is who will replace the Queen on the five dollar note.  It’s an open question Labor says, they haven’t made any determinations. Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has backed a straight swap to King Charles.  Do you think that’s necessary?

Senator Bragg

Look I don’t think going through these issues before the funeral’s been conducted is appropriate.  I would say that for people who want to have a debate about future constitutional arrangements and currencies, the day to do it is not today.  But you know I have an open mind about all these things, but I don’t think today is the appropriate day to do it.  And, look I read Stan Grant’s piece yesterday and I thought it was compelling and devastating, so I understand that perspective as well, but I do think on the day of the funeral we ought to pay our respects to Her late Majesty. 

Patricia Karvelas

I’m glad you mentioned Stan Grant’s piece, it was devastating.  Did you think it was an important part of the conversation though that hasn’t been had?

Senator Bragg

Yes, I do.  I think it is a very important part of the conversation and it is difficult when there is a prescribed mourning period to raise these issues in a sensitive and dignified way, but they have to be raised.  But, my own thoughts are the time to raise them is not during the official mourning period but it is immediately afterwards and I think people should be prepared to have an open and frank debate about these issues that Stan has raised.

Patricia Karvelas

And, just one more question on this. I’m not asking you to debate the substantive issues I get what point you’re making, but on the sensitivity we should be showing to indigenous Australians – do you think we have got that right?

Senator Bragg

Um, I’m not sure, I’m not sure, I think it is a very difficult question to answer and I mean all of these arrangements were locked in it seems for many decades.  I mean as you know, it is all part of the official family’s secrets, to use a rough term, phrase there but yeah I think it is very important that these things are not pushed under the carpet.  I think after the funeral is conducted it would be appropriate to have a broader discussion about these matters.

Patricia Karvelas

Thank you so much for joining us Senator.

Senator Bragg

Okay thanks a lot.

[ENDS]

Media contact: 0401 392 624

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