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ADC Global Blockchain Summit

Adelaide

18 March 2019

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Ladies and gentlemen, it’s great to be here.

I would like to acknowledge South Australian Premier Steven Marshall, and I thank the ADC Forum for inviting me.

This is a great opportunity to share insights into the future of blockchain technology.

I think it’s fitting that Adelaide is hosting this event. The South Australian Government sees the blockchain industry as a future growth engine of its economy and they are helping to create an environment in which blockchain businesses can thrive and prosper.

It has also launched a Blockchain Innovation Challenge and I congratulate the finalists pitching their ideas at this event.

There are abundant potential applications of blockchain, and I’m thrilled we have such a vibrant industry across Australia.

We have start-ups working on innovative applications of this technology all the way through to companies developing and selling their products in overseas markets.

I am keen to see Australia become a global player in this field as a government, the Coalition is helping to create the right atmosphere to benefit from the benefits of blockchain.

A 2017 study by CSIRO’s Data61 unit highlighted the potentially transformative economic effects of blockchain.

It emphasised its potential to drive productivity growth, and especially to lower the cost of doing business for SMEs.

But to deliver this we need to capitalise on our competitive advantages—like our sound regulatory environment, strong R&D ecosystem, and good record of blockchain innovation.

Of course, there are still challenges in developing this technology and in securing its widespread adoption.

Blockchain technology has been around since the advent of Bitcoin, which was launched over a decade ago.

However, blockchain’s development and use beyond cryptocurrency is still in its early days.

In Australia, stakeholders have identified several hurdles—such as regulatory uncertainty, and lack of access to funding for trials and commercialisation.

We need to work diligently to address these challenges, and capitalise on the opportunities that blockchain offers.

As a nation, we’re pursuing these opportunities and Australian businesses are leading the way.

The ASX was the world’s first stock exchange to announce its transition to blockchain technology, due in early 2021.

Commonwealth Bank has also used a blockchain platform to facilitate a supply chain trade experiment. The experiment enabled almonds to be shipped from Victoria to Germany.

We also have many successful start-ups including: 

·       BeefLedger and AgriDigital, which are improving the transparency of agricultural supply chain transactions;

·       Horizon State, which is developing a platform to increase election transparency in emerging democracies, and was named as one of the World Economic Forum’s ‘technology pioneers’ for 2018;

·       and Civic Ledger, which works with governments to solve civic problems using blockchain technology, and was named 2018 ‘Emerging Fintech of the Year’.

We also have a number of great female leaders in our blockchain industry.

For example, Katrina Donaghy, the co-CEO of Civic Ledger, is working hard to empower women in blockchain.

Katrina has said that meet-up spaces and networking are essential to empowering more female founders.

I’m delighted Katrina has set up the Australian chapter of Women on the Block—a global initiative which hosts events to empower women in the blockchain industry.

The Coalition Government has a number of initiatives in place to support the Australian blockchain industry.

For example, Australia is leading the development of international blockchain standards through the International Organization for Standardization.

This work is being done by our peak independent standards organisation—Standards Australia—and is expected to be finalised next year.

The Coalition Government has provided $350,000 for this work, with Standards Australia contributing an additional $200,000.

Our leading role is creating interest from international businesses, standards bodies, regulators, and governments.

Australia’s lead agency for international trade promotion—Austrade—is also promoting our businesses overseas.

Austrade led two blockchain trade missions last year with two missions scheduled this year—to Dubai for the Future Blockchain Summit and to New York for the Consensus blockchain summit.

This is helping our blockchain businesses to export into new markets and get the international recognition they deserve.

The Coalition Government supports the development of innovative technology and currently provides a number of funding and support programs that blockchain companies can apply for.

For example, the Business Research and Innovation Initiative provides SMEs with funding to develop innovative solutions to goverment policy and service delivery challenges. The latest funding round is open until 17 April.

In addition, Export Market Development Grants provide financial assistance for aspiring and current exporters.

Of course, we still have a long way to go—both to develop blockchain technology and to adopt it across the economy.

To support this important endeavour, I am pleased to announce the Government will be developing a National Blockchain Roadmap.

This will examine the potential uses and benefits of blockchain for Australia, and look to how we can become a global leader.

It will also explore options for how government and industry can work to enhance blockchain’s long-term development.

The strategy will be developed in close consultation with blockchain experts from industry and academia.

In addition, I’m pleased to announce that the Morrison Government will be providing $100,000 to support Australian blockchain companies to join Austrade’s Mission to Consensus in New York from 12 to 16 May this year.

Consensus is one of the landmark events on the blockchain calendar and participating in Austrade’s mission will enable our blockchain companies to explore global opportunities for investment, development, and commercialisation.

I am optimistic about the future of blockchain in Australia.

I look forward to working in close consultation with experts from Australia’s blockchain and technology industry, as well as with overseas governments, businesses and investors.

Together, we can drive the long-term development and adoption of blockchain technology, and capitalise on the tremendous economic and social opportunities it offers.

Media contact: Minister Andrews' office: (02) 6277 7070