Ever since Alexander the Great stamped his handsome portrait on coins across the Middle East and Central Asia, monarchs have understood the value of currency as a way of promoting their image to their subject peoples.
That was certainly true in Australia where, as early as 1855, the Sydney Mint started producing Australia’s first gold sovereigns with Queen Victoria’s august countenance.
The red ragging republicans at the Reserve Bank of Australia and within the Albanese government, however, on Thursday broke with that long tradition by announcing the face of the reigning monarch will no longer appear on any of the nation’s legal tender.
The image of the late Queen Elizabeth II that now adorns the $5 note will be replaced not by King Charles III but by an Indigenous design which will be determined by a committee of experts.
Predictably, monarchists have declared a culture war red alert. Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has described the decision as “woke nonsense” and an “attack on society,” blaming Treasurer Jim Chalmers, who the RBA consulted on the decision.
The Herald certainly does not share that position. It has been calling for a republic for decades and looks forward to a day when Australia has a head of state chosen by its own people.
It is acutely aware of the absurdity of paying for a beer in a pub on a sweltering Sydney day with a note that bears the head of a hereditary monarch of a cold country on the other side of the world.
But there are questions over the timing and tone of this decision and whether it really serves the republican cause.
Redesigning the $5 note will certainly remove a symbolic reminder of ties to the monarchy and promote a more Australian national identity. “The $5 note will say more about our history and our heritage, our country,” Chalmers said.