CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia is removing the British monarchy from its bank notes.
The country’s central bank said Thursday that its new $5 bill will feature an aboriginal design rather than an image of King Charles III. But the monarch is still expected to appear on coins that currently bear the image of the late Queen Elizabeth II.
The $5 bill was the only banknote left in Australia that still featured the king’s image.
The bank said the decision came after consultation with the centre-left Labor 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 coloniesAustralia is debating how far it should maintain its constitutional relations with Britain.
The Reserve Bank of Australia said the new $5 banknote will feature a design that replaces the image of the Queen, who died last year. The bank said the move would honor “the culture and history of early Australians”.
“The obverse side of the $5 bill will continue to feature the Australian Parliament,” the bank said in a statement.
Treasury Secretary Jim Chalmers said the change was an opportunity to strike a good balance.
“He will still be the King on the coins, but the $5 bill will say more about our history, our heritage and our country, and I think that’s a good thing,” he told reporters in Melbourne.
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton likened the move to changing the date of the national day, Australia Day.
He told 2GB Radio: “I know the silent majority doesn’t agree with a lot of the awake bullshit going on but we have to hear more from these people online”.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese was central to the King’s decision not to appear in the memorandum, Dutton said, urging him to “stick to it”.
After taking office last year, Albanese set about laying the groundwork for an Australian republic by creating a new position of assistant minister for the republic, but holding a referendum to sever constitutional ties with Britain was not a first-rate priority for his government.
The bank plans to consult with indigenous groups in the design of the $5 bill, a process that is expected to take several years before the new note is released to the public.
The current $5 will be issued until the new design is introduced and will remain legal tender even after the new bill has been put into circulation.
The face of King Charles III is expected to appear on Australian coins later this year.
One Australian dollar equals 71 cents in the American currency.
The British currency began its transition to the new king with the issuance of the 50 pence coin in December. On her face is Charles while her back pays homage to his mother.
This week, there were $208 million of 5 notes worth A$1.04 billion ($734 million) in circulation, according to the Reserve Bank of Australia.
Australia’s smallest denomination accounts for 10% of the more than two billion Australian notes in circulation.
Albanese’s left-wing Labor Party seeks to make Australia a republic with an Australian as head of state instead of the British monarch.
After Labor won the election in May last year, Albanese appointed Matt Thistlethwaite as Assistant Minister for the Republic. Thistlethwaite said in June there would be no change in the Queen’s life.
In a 1999 referendum proposed by the Labor government, Australians voted to retain the British monarch as Australia’s head of state.
When the Queen died, the government had already committed to holding a referendum this year to recognize Aboriginal people in the constitution. The government refused to add a republican question to that referendum as an undesirable move on indigenous primacy.
At one point, Queen Elizabeth II appeared on at least 33 different coins, more than any other monarch, a feat recorded by Guinness World Records.
Berry contributed from Wellington, New Zealand.
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