SKY NEWS NEWSDAY WITH TOM CONNELL
TUESDAY, 13 SEPTEMBER 2022
SUBJECTS: The passing of Queen Elizabeth II, and its impacts on Australia’s currency
TOM CONNELL, HOST: Well Australians can expect to see their King on coins within the next year as the transfer begins to introduce new money with a new monarch. The Royal Australian Mint will receive an approved effigy from Buckingham Palace which will be adapted for printing, the process will follow tradition. The one notable change is King Charles will face the other way compared to the Queen. Joining me live as Assistant Minister of Treasury Andrew Leigh, thanks very much for your time. So it's a different way that they face some sort of ancient tradition is it?
DR ANDREW LEIGH, ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR COMPETITION, CHARITIES AND TREASURY: It is, every time the monarch changes, then the direction that the way in which they face changes. It is an extraordinary change for Australia, Tom and ever since we started decimal currency in 1966, the Queen has always been on the coins. Some 15 billion Australian coins have been minted with the Queen's face on them. So it'll be a huge change for Australians for the first time to have the king on decimal coins.
CONNELL: Yeah, just one of those things, I suppose you say used to that. The $5 note, of course has the queen on it. You've said there's no decision yet whether it will have the king back on it. Well, what does that hinge on? What are you weighing up?
LEIGH: Oh, that'll be a decision of government. And we'll make it in the appropriate time. But the effigy on the coins needs to change. We've got millions of coins being produced every year. And so we need to move and make a decision on that. And it will be quite a moment for coin collectors. So I mentioned that with some collectors, they'll be very keen to get their hands on some of those last coins with Queen Elizabeth’s face.
CONNELL: They’ll be the really valuable ones, won’t they? There’s a recent one in a little commemorative packet. So don't open them if you've got one of them, keep them mint. That would be your official advice?
LEIGH: Look, I would never want to give speculative advice. But certainly the small number of coins which have Queen Elizabeth's face on them, and the year 2023, I imagine will be quite sought after.
CONNELL: So yeah, they're still being printed and the change happens from now. But so just on that $5 note though, what does that decision hinge on? What are you deciding there?
LEIGH: It’s not an immediate priority, we're really focused on making sure the coin changeover goes smoothly. That effigy comes over from the British mint to the Australian mint, they'll then get their tools in place and do the initial production runs. So that's the transition we’re facing.
CONNELL: So the notes are just totally up to the Australian government? The Queen was put there because of her sort of personal, I don't know what you'd say, reputation wherever it might be, and you can make a decision on Charles as a Government.
LEIGH: We can indeed and then that'll be a decision that will be made down the track.
CONNELL: Is it your call?
LEIGH: It'll be a decision for government overall, I've got a particular responsibility for the Australian mint. In one of these curious demarcations Tom, it’s the Treasurer who has responsibility for the notes, working with the Reserve Bank of Australia.
CONNELL: So you'll sort of talk to your colleagues, party room cabinet?
LEIGH: All of that process is to be determined. My main focus now is on the coins, which are the I think the most visible reminder for many Australians of Queen Elizabeth. Not every family has a photo of the Queen up in their dining room, but pretty much every family would have some coins bearing her face.
CONNELL: What about five and 10 cent coins? Are they still useful?
LEIGH: They're still in circulation. When we got rid of the one and two cent coins, Tom, it was sort of easier because we didn't have a rounding problem. One and two cents go down, three and four cents go up. If you get rid of the five cent piece, you've got to figure out whether 15 cents goes down to 10 cents, or up to 20 cents
CONNELL: So they’ve got to go one day. So if you look at the point where two cents and one cent became irrelevant, inflation has meant a similar thing for five cents now. We can just make the call on what we do with it?
LEIGH: It's almost up to that point, not quite in terms of inflation. But the challenge of rounding is one that I don't think anyone has figured out. Now we're not in a rush to get rid of five cent coins.
CONNELL: Is it on your to do list? This is your sort of wheelhouse, you know, you've got a sort of brain that likes to nut out these problems. Do you think you'd like to figure out that problem and give the old heave ho to the five cent coin?
LEIGH: I think getting constitutional recognition for an Indigenous Voice to arliament is a higher priority for me.
CONNELL: But that's not in your area.
LEIGH: But in terms of things that the Government is focused on. We have were elected on a broad agenda, we're very keen to follow through on that agenda.
CONNELL: We don't really need to take getting rid of the five cent coin to an election or anything, you know, this is your area, it's something you're responsible for. Are you working on a solution for it?
LEIGH: It's not a priority for us.
CONNELL: Okay, and what about $100 notes? Huge circulation of them in Australia. A lot of studies have suggested here and overseas, the likelihood is most of them are used for crime and tax evasion because everyday Australians don't use them much. Is that something you should look at?
LEIGH: Yeah, it’s certainly a conversation that has been had. The reason Australia doesn't have a $200 or $500 note is because as you as you go into higher denominations there is a debate about whether or not you're enabling regular commerce or enabling illicit activities. But the $100 note is I think well enough entrenched in the Australian system that it's not a priority for us to be phasing it out of circulation.
CONNELL: Is it something worth looking at, though? Because it's one of those things that most people just don't use, but they're an incredibly high percentage of overall money. And you just think so where are they? What is happening to them? Should we try to find that out?
LEIGH: I think maybe a higher share of $100 notes are involved in illicit activities than for lower denomination notes. But you've got to ask yourself, how much of an inconvenience would it be to those people doing illicit dealings if suddenly their suitcases were twice as heavy because they were carrying $50 notes rather than $100 notes?
CONNELL: Go a twenty maybe and get radical.
LEIGH: I'm not sure you'd make a big dent in organised crime by phasing out the $100 note.
CONNELL: Not convinced by that, okay. Just finally wanted to ask you about the Stage 3 income tax cuts. Do you see it as good economic policy?
LEIGH: For me, Tom, this is about government that does after an election what it said it would do beforehand. We've had a considerable period in which people were concerned about the health of the democracy. And it's important, I think, for the Albanese Labor government to be the government that we said we would be before the election.
CONNELL: So weighing up a clear election pledge, which you point out, how do you weigh that up against if the economy really does worsen and a recession or whatever happens? And do you think the promise is one thing but the health of the economy is more important, we need to use this money in another way. Is that at least something that you would weigh up as economic circumstances change?
LEIGH: Tom in this in this week, I'm trying to be as non-partisan as possible in terms of my public commentary. So let me just put it in terms of the health of the democracy. It is really important for the entire democracy, wherever you stand in the ideological spectrum, to have parliamentarians who deliver on their promises. That's got to do with people's faith in government, which has been on the wane over time. So we've got to restore people's faith in government. And I think we best do that by keeping our promises
CONNELL: Is that a no matter what though? I mean democracy and faith is important, so is people being able to put bread on the table and avoiding a recession.
LEIGH: I think it's really important that we follow through on the promises we made to the Australian people. I think that then goes not only to our ability to govern well and have the faith of Australians, but also our ability to put in place other important long-term reforms, to have a serious reform conversation with the Australian people. Following through on your promises is really important for the health of the democracy and that matters to me as a social democrat, perhaps even more than it would if I was a small government neoliberal.
CONNELL: Andrew Leigh, on that note, we'll leave it there. Thank you.