ABC CANBERRA, ADAM SHIRLEY
TUESDAY, 13 SEPTEMBER 2022
SUBJECTS: Changes to Australia’s currency as a result of the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, changes to Parliament’s schedule, federal ICAC
ADAM SHIRLEY: Well, school holidays is not far off and I know if your parent care, guardian, uncle, aunt, always, well, how do I juggle the kids whilst still needing to work? That is going to be an issue now for MP staffers and Parliament Houseworkers because there will be now a sitting week, as you heard Prime Minister Anthony Albanese speak about yesterday during school holidays to make up for the time lost for this week, where the observance of the death of Queens mean that Parliament is not doing its regular business as was scheduled. Andrew Leigh's, Assistant Minister for Competition, Charities and treasury, soon and to talk with us in a moment about dollars and cents and whose face goes on some of our coins and notes from this point forward. But, Assistant Minister Leigh, thank you so much for your time on Mornings today.
ANDREW LEIGH: Pleasure, Adam. Great to be with you.
ADAM SHIRLEY: Let's talk about the juggle first. Many MPs staffers, permanent House workers have kids or other commitments in school holidays. I wonder, from your own perspective, how will you do the family juggle during that rescheduled sitting week?
ANDREW LEIGH: In parliamentary sitting weeks always put a bit more pressure on Gweneth and I think she'll be doing more than her fair share in this set of parliamentary sittings. The only excuse I've been able to offer her is ‘well, this only happens once every seven decades or so’. Hopefully it's not going to become a regular occurrence. I think it's good you're asking the question, because we ask a lot of our families and gives me a chance to publicly say thanks to Gweneth for the extraordinary work she does in helping raise our kids, particularly when parliamentary sittings are on.
ADAM SHIRLEY: So, amongst others, Green Senator, Larissa Waters, have said this is not family friendly when the Prime Minister pledged that this Parliament would be more family friendly, have any of you with kids in the Government said, hold on a second, Albo. Is there any other week we can use?
ANDREW LEIGH: Well, the challenge is that we're committed to a significant legislative agenda, including the National Integrity Commission, and so we do need to make up those sittings days and in doing so, now has been judged to be the most appropriate time. There's never a good time to put in additional sitting days, but people recognise these are extraordinary circumstances.
ADAM SHIRLEY: Were there any other alternative weeks? Should it have been discussed, at least for a day or so, to try and find another week beyond school holidays?
ANDREW LEIGH: Look, I wasn't part of those discussions for choosing these particular dates. We'll make them work. We're talking about one day of condolence speeches on the 23rd and then three days of sittings on the 26th, 27th, 28th.
ADAM SHIRLEY: Do you reckon that there should be some allowance for people like you to help support the children that will need caring through that holiday week?
ANDREW LEIGH: Well, Tony Burke has been important in instigating changes to standing orders, including an important shift to the standing orders, which sees no divisions after 6:30 PM. So for those of us who live in the capital or for people who bring their kids into Canberra when Parliament is sitting, that does mean they're able to deal with family duties from 6:30 PM onwards and that's a really welcome change.
ADAM SHIRLEY: Andrew Leigh, the government promised to legislate a federal ICAC before the end of the year. Will you get there?
ANDREW LEIGH: Yes, we will.
ADAM SHIRLEY: And I heard yesterday the Prime Minister saying that it would be introduced to Parliament, but he seemed to be deliberating over that word legislate. Are you confident and will, in fact, the ICAC be legislated this year?
ANDREW LEIGH: Yes. Our pledge has not changed.
ADAM SHIRLEY: Anthony Albanese was also asked a bit about, I think, some of the changes, all the different things that will happen now with protocols, you've got responsibility for the Royal Australian Mint and also the changes to our dollars and cents. How expensive will the changes to our currency have to be with the ascension of King Charles?
ANDREW LEIGH: Well, every single coin will change. Ever since decimal currency was introduced, there's only been Queen Elizabeth II on the coins. From next year that will be King Charles III. There's been six different effigies of Queen Elizabeth II. This will be the first king on Australia's coins. In the living memory of most Australians, in accordance with protocol, the direction that the effigy is facing will switch. That will be one of the things that people will notice as they pick up their new coins from next year. And, of course, Adam, to reassure any conspiracy theorists, current coins will remain legal tender.
ADAM SHIRLEY: Yeah. How is that process in brief, because I know there's a lot to it mechanically, but how is that process going to unfold? And when will the new coins with King Charles III start to be stamped?
ANDREW LEIGH: The new coins will be coming out next year. The process is that the Australian Mint will receive designs from its British counterpart. They'll seek approval to use those designs from Buckingham Palace, then the Mint will develop the tools for manufacturing. They'll trial the currencies, there will be a formal currency determination that I'll sign off on and then the coins will be released through the Reserve Bank.
ADAM SHIRLEY: It's quite a responsibility when you stop and think about it. Does it also mean that, at least in the short term, the Mint might need extra resources and staffing? Given this is a process of new designs and the machines needing to be able to adapt to those designs and then start printing them, the Mint is.
ANDREW LEIGH: We’re not anticipating any significant additional costs as a result of this. The Mint put out a range of different coins. There's a range of different collectibles people can check out if they're popping by the Mint. So this is a fairly normal process. The Queen's effigy on the coins was last changed in 2019 and so that process of updating the effigy is not out of the norm.
ADAM SHIRLEY: What about the notes at 4 minutes to nine and Assistant Minister for Competition, Charities and Treasuries with us, and the five dollar note has the headshot, to use a common term, of Queen Elizabeth II. Will that change? And if so, which portrait will we see?
ANDREW LEIGH: We haven't made a decision on the five dollar note. My main focus is on the coins, which we now need to change.
ADAM SHIRLEY: On the note, because people will be wondering, does the Australian government have some lee-way on the decision making process or is there, I suppose, a higher authority or protocol that dictates that?
ANDREW LEIGH: No, that's a government decision.
ADAM SHIRLEY: So are you looking forward to that debate and discussion and how might that happen?
ANDREW LEIGH: It'll be an internal discussion for governments, but we're not rushing on that one. The important thing is to get the coins changed over and you don't want to underestimate the scale of what we're doing with the coins Adam. The Queen's portrait first appeared when Australians coins were shillings and pence. And so now to have our coins changing, the very first time a king will be on Australian decimal currency. There's been some 15 billion decimal coins bearing Queen Elizabeth II's face. So this will be really the start of an extraordinary new era as we move away from the current design of coins, which have an effigy designed by Jody Clark.
ADAM SHIRLEY: Obviously historic and a bit more direct or logical, let's say, for the coins. But I'm interested in your comments that an internal discussion from the government will determine what happens with the $5 note. How likely is it you might look to constituents, those that voted in, people from the government throughout the nation, to get guidance on that.
ANDREW LEIGH: My focus has really been on the coins right now. I haven't turned my mind to the five dollar note. The main priority is to make sure we get this coin handover happening smoothly and speedily.
ADAM SHIRLEY: All right. So overall, with the five dollar note, can you give us a time frame of when it might be considered?
ANDREW LEIGH: No, I can't. At this stage, the coins are where the action is. That will be a significant change over big move to a new effigy from a new sovereign.
ADAM SHIRLEY: Sure. I think the action will be on the note, though it's fair to say that could also be a symbolic indication, even change, would you agree?
ANDREW LEIGH: It could indeed.
ADAM SHIRLEY: Assistant Minister Andrew Leigh. Thank you for your time.
ANDREW LEIGH: Thanks so much, Adam.
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