Australia versus Social Media : Won’t Anyone Think Of The Children?!

Ah, Australia. The Lucky Country. Some decades ago an Australian Historian coined that term to describe ourselves because we genuinely wondered how we’d achieved our wealth and standard of living by being so damned relaxed all the time. His answer, “meh, just dumb luck…”

I could go on for hours on this but it takes more than some relaxed yokels to go from being an open air prison to having a Supreme Court within 38 years of landing on a strange Continent (and after struggling for the first few years to feed itself) with the establishment of Parliamentary democracy in NSW a decade later (making NSW second or third longest continuous demcoracy in the world). You also don’t become the richest country (per capita) on the planet without getting at least a little wound up every now and then… for goodness’ sake, we gave the world multi-Billionaire Tyrant Rupert Murdoch, Wi-Fi, digital music sampling, AC/DC, the bionic ear, the secret ballot, and less impressively the “goon sack” (otherwise known as cask wine) amongst other trivial, and other obviously laid backstuff like Penicillan.

So freaking laid back are we that we built railways, roads and telegraphs across massive expanses of deserts, used this land to grow food and find mineral wealth and (whether you think it was a good thing or not), have fought the bad guys in all major wars for the last 100+ years.

SO LAID BACK ARE WE, we even stick to our own little corner or the world. (Hem hem, got a little worked up there with the sarcasm…)

We also, arguably, created the twin concepts of being over-governed and over-regulated. Which, as a largely non-laid back people, we’re happy with.

The reality is, anything which isn’t visibly regulated or sign-posted in Australia is a source of extreme anxiety for everyone concerned. Think of Helen Lovejoy (of The Simpons’ fame) representing a large portion of the Australian polity: “Why Won’t Someone Think of The Children!”

In any case, Crowdfunding it seems was clearly making someone in Canberra a little uncomfortable – perhaps seemed a little too free and easy, “What? People just give you money? But WHY? That’s far too easy!” – so they (being ASIC the Australian Securities Commission) decided to remind everyone that crowdfunding is likely to be a big scam, that will see them waste their money (meanwhile actual scam merchants such as QuiBids continue unmolested).

But that they could and will regulate it and with how big a stick they could hit you with if you f**ked up:

“Offering a financial product or securities without meeting the relevant obligations under the Corporations Act may have a number of consequences, including fines or other penalties. For example, the maximum penalty for failing to register a managed investment scheme is 200 penalty units ($22,000), five years imprisonment or both.

The maximum penalty for carrying on a financial services business without an AFS licence is 200 penalty units ($22,000), two years imprisonment or both.”

You don’t even get that kind of penalty for deliberately running down multiple hipsters in your car.

The ACCC joined in the fun then promising to become Australia’s Social Media Cop – not only warning us against crowdfunding but deciding that everything on Social Media is an ad, and that anything written anywhere, by anyone, would be governed and regulated by them – and that no Facebook fanboy would be left behind!

  • Err, Aren’t we trying to be internationally competitive? Now businesses have new burdens and are less agile to deal with change or compete internationally. Difficult access to equity crowd-funding models (that are becoming en vougue overseas) for one and potential extra headaches when trying to set up your own campaign anyway are real hurdles for Startups. And everything on Social media being an ad…? Watch out. Making a joke about your product could be as dangerous as making one about a bomb at a check-in counter. Never before has a sarcasm font been more needed.
  • Thin edge of the wedge.  When the ACCC becomes concerned about something it usually means lots of well-meaning public education and less-well-meaning punishments for others. There’s now a major risk that Social media and crowd-funding will become even more scary and more likely to be considered a scam in the eyes of the Australian public.
  • Will Commercialisation Australia pick up ths slack? Presumably this means Commercialisation Australia (CA) will relax its rules on amounts to be raised to access their funds? Not bloody likely. If ASIC and ACCC make it even more difficult to raise funds from crowd-funding by telling everyone they’re being scammed, then many startups just won’t get the cash from CA.

You’d think luck would be abundant in the lucky country.  Don’t count on being able to make your own.

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