CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia is removing the British monarchy from its banknotes.
The country’s central bank said Thursday that its new $5 bill will feature a domestic design rather than an image of King Charles III. But now the monarch is expected to appear on coins bearing the image of the late Queen Elizabeth II.
The $5 bill is Australia’s only surviving banknote.
The bank said the decision was made following 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 that role is largely symbolic these days. Like many former British coloniesAustralia is debating the extent to which it should retain its constitutional ties with Britain.
The Reserve Bank of Australia said last year that the new $5 bill would replace the portrait of the dead Queen. The bank said the move would respect “the culture and history of First Australians”.
“The Australian Parliament will continue to feature on the reverse side of the $5 banknote,” the bank said in a statement.
Treasurer Jim Chalmers said the change was an opportunity to strike a fine balance.
“The king will still be on the coins, but the $5 note says more about our history and our heritage and our country, and I see that as a good thing,” he told reporters in Melbourne.
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton compared the move to changing the date of the national day, Australia Day.
“I know the silent majority don’t agree with a lot of the nonsense that continues to be raised, but we need to hear more from those people online,” he told 2GB Radio.
Dutton said Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s memo was central to the decision not to have the king appear, and urged him to “own it”.
After taking office last year, Albanese began laying the groundwork for an Australian republic by creating a new assistant minister of state, but holding a referendum on severing constitutional ties with Britain has not been his government’s first-order priority.
The bank plans to consult with tribal groups on the design of the $5 note, and expects it will be several years before the new note goes public.
The current $5 will be issued until the new design is introduced and will remain legal even after the new bill goes into circulation.
The face of King Charles III is expected to appear on Australian coins later this year.
An Australian dollar is worth about 71 cents in US currency.
The British coin began to become the new king with the release of the 50 pence coin in December. The obverse of the coin features Charles and the reverse commemorates his mother.
This week, according to the Reserve Bank of Australia, there were 208 million $5 notes in circulation worth AU$1.04 billion ($734 million).
10% of the more than 2 billion Australian bank notes in circulation have Australia’s smallest denomination.
The Albanian 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 Minister for the Republic. Thistlethwaite said in June that there would be no change during the Queen’s lifetime.
In 1999 Australians voted in a referendum that proposed a Labor government to keep the British monarch as Australia’s head of state.
When the Queen died, the government had already promised to hold a referendum this year to recognize indigenous peoples in the constitution. The government has dismissed the inclusion of the republic question in that referendum as an unnecessary distraction from its original priority.
At one time, Queen Elizabeth II appeared on at least 33 different coins, more than any other monarch, according to Guinness World Records.
Berry contributed from Wellington, New Zealand.