By NICK PERRY and ROD MCGUIRK
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia is removing the British monarchy from its bank notes.
The nation’s central bank said Thursday its new $5 bill would feature an Indigenous 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 bill was Australia’s only remaining bank note to still feature an image of the monarch.
The bank said the decision followed consultation with the center-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 these days that role is largely symbolic. Like many former British colonies, Australia is debating to what extent it should retain its constitutional ties to Britain.
Australia’s Reserve Bank said the new $5 bill would 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 the First Australians.”
“The other side of the $5 banknote will continue to feature 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 and 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 day, Australia Day.
“I know the silent majority don’t agree with a lot of the woke nonsense that goes on but we’ve got to hear more from those people online,” he told 2GB Radio.
Dutton said Prime Minister Anthony Albanese was central to the decision for the king not to appear on the note, urging him to “own up to it.”
After taking office last year, Albanese started laying the groundwork for an Australian republic by creating a new position of assistant minister for the republic, but holding a referendum to sever constitutional ties with Britain has not been a first-order priority for his government.
The bank plans to consult with Indigenous groups in designing the $5 note, a process it expects will take several years before the new note goes public.
The current $5 will be issued until the new design is introduced and will remain legal tender even after the new bill goes into circulation.
The face of King Charles III is expected to be seen on Australian coins later this year.
One Australian dollar is worth about 71 cents in U.S. currency.
British currency began transitioning to the new monarch with the release of the 50 pence coin in December. It has Charles on the front of the coin while the back commemorates his mother.
This week, there were 208 million $5 notes in circulation worth AU$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 bank notes circulating.
Albanese’s center-left Labor Party is seeking to make Australia a republic with an Australian citizen as head of state instead of the British monarch.
After Labor won elections in May last year, Albanese appointed Matt Thistlethwaite as assistant minister for the republic. Thistlethwaite said in June there would be no change in the queen’s lifetime.
Australians voted in a 1999 referendum proposed by a Labor government to maintain 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 acknowledge Indigenous people in the constitution. The government has dismissed adding a republic question to that referendum as an unwanted distraction from its Indigenous priority.
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.
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