ROYAL AUSTRALIAN MINT, CANBERRA
TUESDAY, 13 SEPTEMBER 2022
SUBJECTS: Changes to Australia’s currency as a result of the passing of Queen Elizabeth the II
DR ANDREW LEIGH, ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR COMPETITION, CHARITIES, AND TREASURY: Good morning. Thank you very much for joining us here today. My name is Andrew Leigh, the Assistant Minister for Competition, Charities and Treasury. We are meeting on the traditional lands of the Ngunnawal People so let me acknowledge their elders. [Ngunnawal language greeting omitted]
I'm here with Leigh Gordon, the CEO of the Royal Australian Mint to talk about the process that Australia will go through in changing Australian coins. Since 1953, the effigy of Queen Elizabeth II has appeared on Australian coins. Australia has never known decimal currency that didn't have the face of Queen Elizabeth II. Since 1966, when decimal currency was introduced, over 15 billion coins have been produced bearing the face of Queen Elizabeth the Second. Queen Elizabeth the Second first appeared on Australian coins when those coins were pence and shillings. It will be a remarkable moment when Australia moves from having not a queen on the coins, but a king.
The Royal Australian Mint is well prepared for this eventuality, and will engage with its British counterpart to obtain an appropriate effigy. That effigy will then be confirmed with Buckingham Palace and tested before being put into production sometime in 2023. Australians should expect to see a king on Australian coins. The process of changing the effigy is unusual in moving to a new monarch but the Mint isn't unfamiliar with the process of changing the Queen's effigy.
The current effigy that you see on Australian coins was designed by Jody Clark in 2019. So the Mint has gone through six different transitions to arrive at the current effigy. One thing that Australians will notice as the transfer happens is that on the current coins, the Queen faces to the left. By tradition, the direction that the monarch faces will change. And so King Charles III will face to the right. We anticipate that this process will occur smoothly, we're not expecting any particular disruptions as these coins appear in Australians' wallets in 2023. And for the avoidance of doubt, for any conspiracy theorists out there, all coins bearing the face of Queen Elizabeth II, will remain legal tender into the future. I'm very happy to take any questions, as is Leigh Gordon, the CEO of the Australian Mint.
JOURNALIST: Leigh, can you just talk us through a bit more detail of the timeline for changing to the effigy of King Charles?
LEIGH GORDON, CEO, ROYAL AUSTRALIAN MINT: Thanks very much for that. Certainly, as the Minister indicated, when we receive an effigy that's been endorsed by Buckingham Palace from the Royal Mint, we will go through a period of modifying the design to match our manufacturing processes, and then actually trialling that design. Our presses make 650 coins a minute, and we tried to get a die life of somewhere between 150 and 200,000 coins in a particular die. So we'll be checking to ensure that the dies are durable enough to allow us to get that sort of life. And indeed, if there are any minor adjustments that we need to make. The material that's used in coins for the UK is different to the material that's used in Australia. So that drives us to make those sort of adjustments in testing. But as the Minister also said, we have gone through this process a number of times before and so we've been quite measured in the way that we will approach it this time.
JOURNALIST: Do you progressively remove the coins with Queen Elizabeth the II from circulation? At what date would you anticipate that they would be out of circulation? And to Minister Leigh? Why bother if Labor wants to make Australia Republican in its second term anyway?
LEIGH GORDON: I'll talk about the life of coins first. We expect our coins will last for about 30 years. And indeed we don't remove them from circulation as a distinct task. We do accept coins back from the banks that have actually we are worn out. And we then go and dispose of those coins we melt them down for their metal and recycle them. But yes, we would expect that these coins will last for 30 years or more, and you could expect to see them for that sort of life.
DR ANDREW LEIGH: As a matter of tradition, the monarch appears on Australian coins. As the Prime Minister has made clear, our first priority for constitutional reform is a Voice to Parliament.
JOURNALIST: This definitely is now the moment to reconsider putting the monarch on the $5 note that has been the practice in the past. Does it has to be that way? Are you open to the idea of putting an Indigenous Australian on the $5 note instead of the monarch, somebody like Eddie Mabo, Vincent Lingiari, Evonne Goolagong?
DR ANDREW LEIGH: Thanks, David, that'll be a conversation to be had down the track. Our focus now is on the coins, which necessarily need to change over.
JOURNALIST: Are you open to it then? Could Australians even put forward their view about that, so that you would hear their wishes about the $5 dollar note?
DR ANDREW LEIGH: It is a conversation that will take place in government, there's no rush about it. So the priority now is changing over the coins, which is a much larger operation. As I noted in my opening remarks, some 15 billion coins have been produced with Queen Elizabeth II on them. So that transition is the important one, we're focused on today.
JOURNALIST: Just off the back of what Paul said doesn't it make more sense to create a coin now that could be used under both Republic and the monarchy? So say having the coat of arms on the back rather than having to go through this process again, in four years?
DR ANDREW LEIGH: All coins remain legal tender throughout this process, Australians shouldn't have any concern that coins will cease to be valid. Regardless of which monarch is on them.
JOURNALIST: Will there still be coins, minted in 2023. Obviously, every January one, there's always the big ceremony, about the first coins minted of the year. So if there isn't any effigies of the new king for instance, by that particular point, would there still being many coins with the queen minted in 2023 for example.
LEIGH GORDON: We will look at each of the particular coin programmes and the timelines that are required for circulating coins. We do not intend to mint any coins in 2023, with the Queen's effigy on it, but we are in a period of transition. There are some coins that are out there now with 2023 dates and the Queen out there. They're collectible and investment coins that have been released as we do normally in September each year for the following year. So we're in a period of transition, but certainly we don't plan to make any circulating coins or to issue any circulating coins that are dated 2023 with the current effigy on it.
JOURNALIST: Dr Leigh, the cost of a five cent coin is often more than the coin is worth. Is this a good opportunity to look at taking them out of circulation? And if not, why not.
DR ANDREW LEIGH: Well the challenge with removing the five cent coin is the rounding problem. When we got rid of one and two cent coins, a couple of decades ago, it was easy, because one and two round down, three and four round up. It's not so obvious which way you'd round five cents. Do you round 95 cents down to 90 cents, or up to $1? They're both equally valid choices. So I think that will delay the removal of five cent coin. Though, as you point out, it does currently cost more to produce than its face value.
JOURNALIST: Can't you just make a decision to round down, for instance, and then take it out of circulation?
DR ANDREW LEIGH: That's not the priority for us at the moment. Fewer Australians are carrying coins. Our main priority is ensuring a smooth transition from the face of the old monarch to the face of the new.
JOURNALIST: Dr. Leigh, on the $5 note. Do you think the King’s portrait effigy will be on the back of the $5 note? And if so why not announce that today?
DR ANDREW LEIGH: The priority for us is ensuring the smooth transition of the coins. As I understand the decision to include the Queen's face on the $5 note was about her personally rather than about her status as a monarch. So that transition isn't automatic, we'll have a sensible conversation within governments and make an appropriate announcement in due course.
JOURNALIST: Everybody taps the card these days instead of using cash. So a question for the Director. How many coins do you even produce these days compared to what you were producing 10 years ago. Is it much fewer?
LEIGH GORDON: Certainly there has been a gradual decline in the use of circulating coins over time. But we make in the order of 120 to 140 million circulating coins for Australians. That's a demand that comes out of the banks and comes out of I guess Australians and Australian businesses through their tools.
JOURNALIST: So is that per year and how would that compare to say 10 years ago? 20 years ago?
LEIGH GORDON: It is a decline on certainly 10 years ago we have seen a gradual decline. But I guess the role of the Mint is to recognise that there was an element of Australian society that relies on circulating coins. It's a social connectivity issue. And so our challenge is to ensure that we can provide that level of service. Coming back to the question about the five cent piece, we actually that's not the only coin that we lose, I guess we produce at a loss is certainly the same for the ten and the twenty. But that is part of the service that the Mint has to provide to the Australian public. So our aim is about doing that as efficiently and as effectively as we can.
DR ANDREW LEIGH: David, if you'd like to make up the shortfall that the Mint is experiencing on its five cent coin, I would recommend their new collectible Australian Signals Directorate coin. A great purchase for birthdays or Christmas for any child who is interested in solving puzzles.
JOURNALIST: What does a five cent coin cost to produce?
LEIGH GORDON: It varies with the price of the metal, but it's somewhere north of 12 cents at the moment.
JOURNALIST: What about the mineral value?
LEIGH GORDON: Well, that's the way the 12 cents comes from includes the metal, it's the predominant driver for the cost of the coin, the labour cost is quite minor.
JOURNALIST: And throughout this transition, can you imagine for collectors that any particular currencies in Australia will become more valuable given what is going on. From a collectors perspective?
LEIGH GORDON: Certainly, we've seen a lot of interest in all of the coins that we've got available in our collectible and investment market at the moment, and certainly to people out there that have been working through our E shop or online shop, we do have a significant backlog of orders in our process. People seem very keen to get a piece of history. And certainly I'd encourage people to have a look at the Mint website, to have a look at the shop here or indeed our dealer network that we have around Australia. It is an opportunity for you to grab a piece of history.
JOURNALIST: What about the first coins that come out of the Mint are they what people will want to grab most quickly?
LEIGH GORDON: I'm certainly not a detailed coin collector myself, but I can imagine that they will be very valuable when they do come out, very much sought after.
JOURNALIST: In terms of the work to carry through this change. Has that already started does it start today. And if so what are the very first steps in getting this done?
LEIGH GORDON: We've been thinking about this process for quite a while now understanding the principles that we would go down the journey. Certainly, it's very unfortunate to have the Queen's death last week. But that certainly defines the point for us now to be able to make some decisions, I guess it's probably appropriate for me just to acknowledge that our colleagues in the in the Royal Mint in the UK who are going through a period of mourning will be particularly affected by this change. And we certainly send our thoughts out to them. But we now are going through a measured process. Our fundamental obligation is to ensure that circulating coins are available for the Australian public. And I can guarantee that that will occur that there are elements around the edges, collectible investment, the timing of the transition that we do need to work through. But I'm quite confident that the professional staff we've got here will be able to work through that process quite well. And you can expect us to engage with the public as we go on, you know, we will let you know what's happening. We're not going to be forecasting dates that things are available. We're not aiming for specific dates in any particular areas. But we will be giving you an idea of what's occurred because they are your coins.
JOURNALIST: You've given a per minute figure for the number of coins minted but how many coins with King Charles will be minted per year? And do you have an estimate of what proportion of the coins in circulation will have the king on it by say 2026-27.
LEIGH GORDON: I'm not particularly good at maths on the fly. You know, there are 15 billion coins out there at the moment. We make about 110 to 150 million coins a year of that sort of order. But that is very much on the demand of the banks. You know, we saw events like COVID certainly changed that profile. And indeed, we aren't quite out of COVID. yet. I think with the actual use of the coins. We're seeing some orders this particular year, which are a little bit earlier than we've seen them in previous years as the system adjusts itself. Where the coins are located and how they're being used. But you know, as I've said, you know, there'll be a small number of these coins coming out, depending on how the bank demands and indeed we will have coins in reserve with that Queen Elizabeth effigy on that still need to be consumed. Now the coins that we have made that are sitting in our vaults and in the bank storage areas will be drawn out into into the process.
JOURNALIST: Mister Gordon, what makes a good effigy.
LEIGH GORDON: For us, we're looking to make sure that the heights of the profile of the design on the effigy are appropriate for the metal that we use. That there are no particular areas that raise the stress that would mean that the die might particularly fail through its repeated use. So something that is quite manufacturable and allows us to have a very durable die would be a good design.
JOURNALIST: And there's no aspect of personality that goes into the effigy?
LEIGH GORDON: Surprisingly no, a person's personality generally doesn't impact the way that they're presented on a coin.
JOURNALIST: We've had one effigy of Queen Elizabeth that was designed by an Australian, I believe from the Mint. Will anyone from the Mint be submitting a design of King Charles for consideration?
LEIGH GORDON: It's not our intention at this stage. Our intention is to go through the process that we've used before of requesting an effigy that's been approved by Buckingham Palace that we can get from the Royal Mint in the UK
JOURNALIST: Will the King Charles coin work in vending machines?
LEIGH GORDON: I don't expect that there'll be any change in the dimensions that would mean that they wouldn't operate in the coin machines that we have.
JOURNALIST: What messaging will there be in the community warning people of potential scams, specifically to communities with English as a second language?
LEIGH GORDON: Well certainly today is one of the first steps we've got in communicating what our plans are, we have quite a good approach to the media around coins. It seems fairly effective. And we certainly take on board that we need to interface with a diverse range of people because some of those groups are the ones that do make more use of cash. As we realise that yet we'll certainly be looking to communicate with all Australians about our plans.
DR ANDREW LEIGH: No more questions? Thanks everyone for coming. We appreciate it.
Media contact: Toby Halligan 0455 452 765