Malcolm Turnbull said on Friday ditching the 5c coin could make sense. The great coin question first arose in May when News.com.au’s Malcolm Farr asked Treasurer Scott Morrison if it was worth producing the 5c piece given its dwindling use and the increase in electronic payments.
The minister thought the notion was a frivolity, responding “If you can get as many people as in this room again who are interested in that topic, I’ll answer your question.”
But the question has refused to go away with the Tasmanian Liberals putting the issue on the agenda of a party meeting this weekend in Launceston. The motion says the 5c piece should be scrapped as it is “rapidly becoming irrelevant”.
Turnbull, who is in Tasmania to address the meeting, was asked on Friday by local radio station LAFM whether he thought the coin should go. He was more forthcoming on the debate than his Treasurer.
“It’s a good question. I’ll be very interested to follow the local debate on that,” he said.
“You don’t see them a lot anymore, do you actually? It’s a fair point.”
It now costs the Mint more than five cents to make the coin. In February, then Assistant Minister to the Treasurer Alex Hawke said Australia was getting close to the point where the coin doesn’t have a lot of use, especially given you can’t use it in many machines.
Nevertheless, production of the coin is yet to cease, and the Mint produced about 20 million of them in the past 12 months.
The removal of the 5c piece from our pockets would bring big changes.
It would lead to new prices as retailers and customers became used to rounding them up or down without the transit stop of five cents.
The departure of the coin — with an echidna on one side the Queen on the other — would not be immediate. It would be phased out as the Mint stopped making them.
While it might be annoyingly cluttering up your purses without being able to buy much unless in cumbersome multiples, it should be given credit for outliving some of its relatives.
The five cent coin has been around roughly twice the lifespan of the one cent and two cent coins, which were taken from us by an announcement in the 1990 Budget.
The death of the five cent coin has long been forecast with Mint chief executive Ross MacDiamid marking its 50th birthday in February by joining the mourners.
“We’ve seen a halving of the demand for five cent pieces over the past five years and our expectation is that it will just simply progress,” Mr MacDiamid said at the time.
“It’s lost its utility; it will lose interest from the public.”
New Zealand ditched its 5c coin in 2006 with the 10c piece now the smallest. Like Australia, Canada’s smallest value coin is the 5c piece.
But Britain, the United States and the eurozone are still fans of tiny coins with the one penny, one cent and one euro cent pieces still in circulation.