Australia says goodbye to the British monarchy on its banknotes
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia is removing the British monarchy from its banknotes.
The country’s central bank said on Thursday that its new $5 note would feature an indigenous design rather than an image of King Charles III. But the King is still expected to appear on coins that currently bear the image of the late Queen Elizabeth II.
The $5 note was the only remaining banknote in Australia to still feature an image of the monarch. The bank said the decision followed consultation with the centre-left Labor Party government, which supported the change. Opponents say the move is politically motivated.
The British monarch remains Australia’s head of state, although these days that role is largely symbolic. Like many former British colonies, Australia struggles to what extent it should retain its constitutional ties to Britain.
The Reserve Bank of Australia said the new $5 note would feature a design to replace the portrait of the Queen, who died last year. The bank said the move would honor “the culture and history of early Australians”.
“The other side of the $5 note will continue to feature the Australian parliament,” the bank said in a statement.
Treasurer Jim Chalmers said the change was an opportunity to strike a good balance. “The monarch will always be on the coins, but the $5 note will say more about our history, our heritage and our country, and I consider that a good thing,” he told reporters in Melbourne.
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton compared the move to changing the date of the national holiday, Australia Day.
“I know the silent majority don’t agree with a lot of the woke nonsense that’s going on, but we need to find out more about these people online,” he told 2GB Radio.
Dutton said Prime Minister Anthony Albanese was at the heart of the King’s decision not to appear on the note, urging him to “admit it”.
After taking office last year, Albanese began laying the groundwork for an Australian republic by creating a new post of deputy republic minister, but holding a referendum to sever constitutional ties with Great Britain. Britain was not a top priority for his government.
The bank plans to consult with Indigenous groups when designing the $5 note, a process it says will take several years before the new note is made public.
The current $5 will be issued until the new design is introduced and will be legal tender even after the new note is put into circulation.
The face of King Charles III is expected to be seen on Australian coins later this year.
One Australian dollar is worth approximately 71 cents in US currency.
The UK mint began its transition to the new monarch with the release of the 50p coin in December. It has Charles on the front of the coin while the back commemorates his mother.
This week there were 208 million $5 notes in circulation worth 1.04 billion Australian dollars ($734 million), according to the Reserve Bank of Australia.
Australia’s smallest denomination accounts for 10% of the over 2 billion Australian banknotes in circulation.
The centre-left Albanese Labor Party seeks to make Australia a republic with an Australian citizen as head of state instead of the British monarch.
After Labor won the election in May last year, Albanese appointed Matt Thistlethwaite as deputy republic minister. Thistlethwaite said in June there would be no changes to the Queen’s life.
Australians voted in a 1999 referendum proposed by a Labor government to keep the British monarch as head of state in Australia.
When the queen died, the government had already pledged to hold a referendum this year to recognize indigenous peoples in the constitution. The government rejected adding a Republican question to this referendum as an unwanted distraction from its Indigenous priority.
At one point, Queen Elizabeth II appeared on at least 33 different currencies, more than any other monarch, a feat noted by Guinness World Records.
Perry contributed from Wellington, New Zealand.