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UK MP Calls for Bitcoin Payment for Taxes, Utilities

UK MP Calls for Bitcoin Payment for Taxes, Utilities

Eddie Hughes, a member of the UK parliament and outspoken promoter of blockchain and cryptocurrency, has again raised eyebrows among his more conservative peers with pro-Bitcoin declarations.

Hughes has suggested that citizens should be given the option to pay their council taxed to local authorities in cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin or Ether. Council tax is levied monthly on households in the UK to fund local services, introduced in 1993 to replace the poll tax which caused riots in some parts of Britain due to its unpopularity. It is British householders’ largest annual payment to government apart from income taxes.

Hughes argues that if people can donate to charity using Bitcoin, they should also be able to pay bills in the same way, including monthly or quarterly utilities payments as is done in some parts of Australia after the federal government there announced that welfare payments could now be delivered over blockchain through its Centrelink system. The Australian Department of Health is now actively using blockchain for the storage of medical research records. The MP argued that this integration of cryptocurrency into such areas needs to happen in the UK:

“Only recently I met with the RNLI [Royal National Lifeboat Institution] which is now accepting charitable donations through cryptocurrency – if we can do that, what’s to stop us being able to pay council tax and other bills with Bitcoin?”

Earlier this year, Hughes released a paper on blockchain published by FREER, an initiative from the country’s Institute of Economic Affairs for promoting freedom in the economy and society. His report, Unlocking Blockchain, advocated a public-facing chief blockchain officer to oversee the UK’s blockchain strategy.

He also made recommendations in his report urging Theresa May’s government to focus more readily on blockchain technologies, citing social freedom, increasing efficiency and the rebuilding of societal trust as the main areas of its use in governance. The report also suggested that a long-term target of a 1% efficiency saving using blockchain tech should become its aim over the next year, saving up to GBP 8 billion on the 2017/18 budget.

UK MPs have become increasingly vocal on cryptocurrency and bitcoin. Another MP, Matt Hancock, delivered a speech to the Law Society earlier this year asserting that blockchain technology will have a “monumental impact” on people’s lives in the future. He spoke of “vast areas of public life” that he predicted blockchain would transform: the financial sector, government services, and laws and regulation.

MP Stephen Hammond, who joined the advisory board of cryptocurrency exchange IronX, commented:

“The only way cryptocurrencies will be trusted and become accepted in the traditional business environment is through regulation… This includes governments, policymakers, regulators and the financial services industry. Governments cannot afford to be ambiguous in their stance and need to engage with the industry.”

 

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Vendors Pushing Blockchain, Says Australia’s Digital Transformation Agency

Australia’s Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) has been revising its position on blockchain technology after the Australian government ordered an inquiry into its uses earlier this year.

The basis of the DTA research funded by the Federal Government to the tune of AUD 700,000 (USD 530,000) was to research blockchain, and see how it could be used to improve government services, including welfare payments. The investigation was ordered by Australia’s former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull before he was overturned last month.

Originally, social security and welfare payments by Centrelink were targeted for an overhaul, perhaps by using DLT. The DTA felt at the time that there were significant advantages of delivering social security welfare to citizens over a blockchain. Centrelink, part of the Department of Health Services (DHS), is responsible for a range of payments, particularly those relating to unemployment, pensions, and health.

It appears after the investigation, the government is less likely to be ready for taking the next move, which would see blockchain utilized among a range of government department services. At a recent Senate estimates hearing, DTA chief digital officer Peter Alexander said:

“It’s an interesting technology but it’s early on in the development. It’s at the top of a hype cycle. A lot of the engagement [with the agencies] is comparing blockchain against existing technologies… without standardization and a lot more work, for every use of blockchain that you would consider today there is a better technology.”

Alexander claimed that blockchain promotion lay at the feet of vendors who had been pushing the technology rather than central governments and users and deliverers of blockchain services.

It appears that the Australian stock market is more impressed than the government with DLT after the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) stated earlier this year that it has plans to replace its current clearing and settlement system with a DLT model within the next two years.

The current system, the Clearing House Electronic Subregister System (CHESS) which has been used by ASX since the 1990s, will be replaced with blockchain technology possibly in 2020.

 

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Australian Driver’s License Goes Blockchain in Sydney

Australia has been on the international front line in incorporating blockchain technology into its government departments over the past months.

In developments this year, the Australian federal government has announced that welfare payments could be delivered over blockchain through its Centrelink system. The Australian Department of Health is now actively using blockchain for the storage of medical research records. The Department of Home Affairs is also considering blockchain to bring transparency to the continent’s supply chain. Also, the country has developed a forward-thinking approach to the integration of cryptocurrency into some public services.

In November, the State Government of New South Wales plans to trial a digital drivers license backed by blockchain in Sydney. This will give 140,000 license holders in Sydney’s Eastern Beaches access to the new Secure Logic TrustGrid license.

The new smartphone license on the Service NSW app follows a similar trial held in Dubbo, an NSW town of 55,000, 303 km north-west of Sydney. There, participants were able to use their digital license to gain access to pubs and clubs as well as use as ID when stopped by roadside police for standard checks or breath testing.

Australian data security company Secure Logic’s platform provided the tech behind the digital driver license for both NSW government trials. Secure Logic CEO Santosh Devaraj said this really is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to blockchain tech, and says that the tech will be hugely influential when applied to public services in the years to come:

“The era of standing in line to file government paperwork is coming to an end, as is our reliance on physical identification cards to establish your identity or proof of age with law enforcement or at licensed venues. These are mistake prone, time-consuming, expensive, and impractical ways to offer services.”

South Australian drivers have been able to use a similar app since earlier last September. The SA smart app provides a one-time barcode which refreshes every 30 seconds to prevent fraud. The licenses are able to be scanned in bars and pubs to verify the owner details are genuine and the license is valid.

 

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Aussie Govt Considers Blockchain for Services, Welfare Payments

Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has asked the country’s Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) to research blockchain, and how it could be used to improve government services, including welfare payments.

The Australian government has granted the agency a budget of AUD 700,000 (USD 530,000) in order to carry out an investigation into DLT, according to ITNews.

“The Prime Minister, in fact, wrote to our minister and asked us to have a look at blockchain, which evolved into this particular piece of work,” DTA chief digital officer Peter Alexander said.

The move is not entirely surprising given recent interest among financial instructions in the country, most significantly, the Australian Securities Exchange’s (ASX) recent plans to replace its current clearing and settlement system with a DLT model within the next two years.

“ASIC (the Australian Securities and Investments Commission) [was] looking at blockchain, immigration – now home affairs – was looking at blockchain and considering it, and more agencies were talking about it,” Alexander said, adding, “Lots of vendors were coming to government and talking about blockchain.”

The move is one of many focused on how the government can best leverage blockchain’s advantages, including another DTA announcement this week that the agency plans to look into how the technology can be used for making social security welfare payments to citizens.

The new plan is focused on payments by Centrelink, reports CCN. The DTA feels that there are significant advantages of delivering social security welfare to citizens over a blockchain. Centrelink, part of the Department of Health Services (DHS), is responsible for a range of payments, particularly those relating to unemployment, pensions, and health. DTA Chief executive Randall Brugeaud stated:

“Our plan is to look for use cases across the Commonwealth with an initial focus on the welfare payment delivery system, then working with our digital service standard, we’ll conduct user research a view of having a prototype by the end of the next financial years.”

Brugeaud added that the potential of blockchain to securely record transactions would be investigated, drawing on the experience of other public and private sector organizations.

As blockchain is increasingly being developed and employed in new sectors across the country, cryptocurrency is also increasing in popularity. While Australia may not be the largest market for Bitcoin and other digital currencies, it is one that is quickly growing. It is currently ranked the 13th in the world for Bitcoin trading volume.

 

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