CANBERRA, Australia (AP) – Australia is removing the British monarchy from its banknotes.
The National Reserve Bank said Thursday that its new $5 bill will feature a local 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 is the only remaining note in Australia that still bears an image of the monarch.
The bank said the decision followed consultations with the centre-left Labor government, which supported the change. Opponents claim 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 the extent to which it should retain constitutional ties with Britain.
The Reserve Bank of Australia has announced that the new $5 note will 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 First Australians”.
“The other side of the $5 note will continue to depict 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 still be on the coins, but the $5 note will say more about our history, our heritage and our country, and I see that as a good thing,” he told reporters in Melbourne.
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton likened 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 hear more from these people online,” he told 2GB Radio.
Dutton said Prime Minister Anthony Albanese was behind the decision not to feature the king on the note, urging him to “come to terms”.
After taking office last year, Albanese began laying the groundwork for an Australian republic by creating a new position of assistant minister for the republic, but holding a referendum on severing constitutional ties with Britain was not a top priority for his government.
The bank plans to consult with local groups in the design of the $5 bill, a process it expects to take several years before the new bill becomes public.
The current $5 will be issued until the new design is introduced and will remain legal tender even after the new note enters circulation.
The likeness of King Charles III is expected to appear on Australian coins later this year.
One Australian dollar is worth about 71 cents in US currency.
British currency began the transition to the new monarch with the launch of the 50p coin in December. On the obverse of the coin is Charles and on the reverse is the memory of his mother.
There were 208 million $5 notes in circulation this week, worth A$1.04 billion ($734 million), according to the Reserve Bank of Australia.
Australia’s smallest denomination accounts for 10% of the more than 2 billion Australian banknotes in circulation.
Albanese’s centre-left 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 assistant republic minister. Thistlethwaite said in June that there would be no change in the Queen’s life.
Australians voted in a referendum in 1999, proposed by a Labor government, 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 indigenous peoples in the constitution. The government dismissed the addition of a republican question to that referendum as an unwanted distraction from its priority for Indigenous people.
At one time, Queen Elizabeth II appeared on at least 33 different currencies, more than any other monarch, an achievement noted by Guinness World Records.
Perry contributed from Wellington, New Zealand.