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Senate steps up fintech work

The Australian Senate last week voted to “expand the scope and length” of the Fintech Select Committee to further strengthen the country’s position as a global financial and technology hub.

Committee Chairman Senator Andrew Bragg says “this is the ideal time to widen our scope and explore new opportunities for Australia as a technology and finance centre arising from the COVID-19 pandemic”.

“I fully expect the Committee to focus on removing more barriers to Australian growth as a technology and finance centre,” Mr Bragg said.

“This is a golden opportunity to bolster Australia’s economic growth and I want to ensure we take full advantage of it.”

As part of the changes voted in last week, the committee will now be called the Select Committee on Australia as a Technology and Financial Centre.

Additional matters that have been referred to the committee include barriers to the uptake of new technologies in the financial sector, opportunities and risks in the digital asset and cryptocurrency sector and the flow-on employment and economic benefits which accrue to finance and technology centres.

The committee is expected to deliver a report on its existing work program next month and a further report on the new mandate in October.

The Financial Services Council (FSC) has welcomed the expanded remit, including options to replace the Offshore Banking Unit as was set out in a recent statement from Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.

Mr Frydenberg announced this month plans to introduce legislation to reform the Offshore Banking Unit scheme to avoid the country being designated a “harmful tax regime” by the OECD and the European Union.

“The [Offshore Banking Unit] regime encourages globally-mobile financial services companies to be located in Australia and its imminent closure could cause operations to be taken offshore,” FSC Acting CEO Blake Briggs said.

“It is critical the Government use the Fintech Select Committee to finalise measures that will ensure these activities remain in Australia.”