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Australia To Remove British Monarchy from Bank Notes: Is the Crown's Time Over? Explained

By: News Desk

Edited By: Vidushi Sagar


Last Updated: February 02, 2023, 12:57 IST

New Delhi, India

Australian currency is displayed in Adelaide, Australia, April 16, 2018.  (Image: Associated Press)

Australian currency is displayed in Adelaide, Australia, April 16, 2018. (Image: Associated Press)

Explained: Australia's central bank announced that the new $5 bill would not depict King Charles III but instead an Indigenous design

Australian currency will no longer feature the British monarchy. On Thursday, the country’s central bank announced that the new $5 bill would not depict King Charles III but instead an Indigenous design. The King, however, is still expected to make an appearance on coins that feature the late Queen Elizabeth II’s image. READ MORE

As of 2016, the $5 bill was the only circulating Australian bank note to still bear a portrait of the monarch.

The bank claimed the decision was made after discussions with the Labor Party government, which is affiliated with the center-left Democratic Party. Those who disagree with the decision say it was made for purely political reasons.

Australia’s head of state is still the British monarch, but she plays a largely ceremonial role these days. Australia, like many other former British colonies, is debating how closely it should remain bound to Britain legally.

Australian banknotes are being counted in Canberra, Australia, May 1, 2009. (Alan Porritt/AAP Image via AP)

After the death of Australia’s monarchy’s long-reigning monarch last year, the Reserve Bank of Australia announced that the country’s new $5 bill would feature a design instead of the monarch’s likeness. The financial institution claimed the change would show respect for “the culture and history of the First Australians," a report by Associated Press said.

Ambivalent Emotions

Adam Bandt, the leader of Australia’s Greens party, had sparked outrage in 2022 by declaring that “now Australia must move forward," with many calling his timing “graceless." However, according to a report by AFP, A sizable proportion of the population supports Australia’s declaration of independence. A 2022 June survey by a company Essential found that 44 per cent of Australians supported the country becoming a republic.

The emotion is apparently similar in Canada, where according to a poll conducted in April last year by the non-profit and non-partisan Angus Reid Institute, 51 per cent of Canadians who oppose having the British Monarch as the head of their state “for generations to come," whereas 26% who support the move. According to the poll, 67% of Canadians oppose Charles as Canada’s King and official head of state, said a report by Forbes.

Australian currency is displayed in Adelaide, Australia, April 16, 2018. (Morgan Sette/AAP Image via AP)

And according to a report by AFP, while Canadians were devoted to Queen Elizabeth II until the end, their relationship with the monarchy had become increasingly strained, and her death on Thursday is expected to reignite debate about the monarchy’s future. “Canada is a monarchist outlier in the middle of a rather republican continent," Marc Chevrier, a professor of politics at the University of Quebec in Montreal told the publication.

“The debates will resurface, Pandora’s box will open," he had said, “after a few weeks of mourning".

While the country had gone ahead with a proper ceremonial mourning, it has been ‘increasingly ambivalent’ towards displaying pomp for the monarchy. “Even in English-speaking Canada, support for the monarchy has diminished over the years," Philippe Lagasse, a professor at Carleton University in Ottawa and expert on the role of the monarchy in Canada had told AFP.

Future Ahead

Barbados, in the Caribbean, became the most recent country to dethrone the British monarch and establish a republic in 2021. The then-Prince Charles attended the transition ceremony, where he spoke about the “appalling atrocity of slavery" that the Caribbean island faced under British rule, the report by Forbes said.

But to follow in the footsteps of Barbados, Canada would need to implement major institutional and constitutional reforms. “The monarchy is the keystone of all constitutional law," Chevrier told AFP, calling it ‘a founding principle at the birth of Canada in 1867’. He pointed out, for example, that “the office of prime minister does not even appear in the Canadian constitution, which only mentions the monarch."

Britain’s King Charles III (Image: Reuters)

Amending the constitution and abolishing the monarchy would necessitate a massive effort and potentially years of political wrangling, as it would necessitate the unanimous approval of both Parliament and the governments of all ten Canadian provinces.

But even then New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who described the late monarch as “extraordinary," has previously stated that her country will become a republic within her lifetime. In the Caribbean, where British rule is linked to a history of slavery, and Prince William and his wife Kate were met with protests and calls for an apology and slavery reparations during a recent visit, the report by Forbes said.

And Jamaica, the Commonwealth realm’s most populous Caribbean nation, began the process of transitioning into a republic in June and is expected to remove the British monarch as its head of state before the next general election in 2025.

Could Charles Abdicate?

Despite political experts saying that Charles would have to be neutral to keep his country and realm together, neutrality could prove difficult in Scotland, where nationalists are pushing for another referendum on independence to break up the United Kingdom, while saying they would keep the monarchy.

Opinion polling by YouGov shows the prospect of Charles as monarch divides British public opinion almost equally. In 2022, just under a third of respondents said he would not make a good king, while almost exactly the same proportion said he would.

By contrast, over 80 percent say the queen has done a fairly good or very good job. Support for a republic has stood at a meagre 15 percent in the past two years.

But the pressure group Republic began a billboard campaign in mid-2021 calling for the abolition of the monarchy.

Chief executive Graham Smith predicted Charles’s accession would be “a major turning point", with Barbados already ditching the UK monarchy in November 2021 and Australia now under a pro-republic government. “He’s not protected by the almost impenetrable shield of deference that surrounds the queen," Smith said.

One recurrent call heard from some of the public is for Charles to abdicate in favour of his 40-year-old son William. Hazell said while Elizabeth II would never have abandoned her pledge of lifetime service, Charles could “conceivably" do so.

There is precedent in Europe: Belgium’s king Albert stood down in 2013, at 79, in favour of his son, as did Juan Carlos I of Spain, the following year.

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    With inputs from AFP, Associated Press

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    first published:February 02, 2023, 12:57 IST
    last updated:February 02, 2023, 12:57 IST