Britain ‘relaxed’ about Australia omitting King Charles from new $5 banknote, high commissioner says

<span>Photograph: Amer Ghazzal/REX/Shutterstock</span>
Photograph: Amer Ghazzal/REX/Shutterstock

The British high commissioner to Australia, Vicki Treadell, says Britain is “relaxed” about the prospect of not having King Charles III on the $5 note.

The Reserve Bank announced on Thursday that it will not replace the image of Queen Elizabeth on the $5 note with King Charles, but with an image that honours the culture and history of First Australians.

Treadell said the UK was “not at all” offended by the move.

“It is for Australia to decide what it wants on its coins, and on its notes,” she told ABC radio on Friday.

“You are a realm in your own right.”

The RBA said it had consulted the federal government on the decision, and had the government’s support.

Related: Australia’s new $5 banknote will feature Indigenous history instead of King Charles

The bank will consult First Australians in designing the $5 banknote, which will take some years to be designed and printed.

Indigenous Australians and designs have appeared on Australian currencies since decimal currency was introduced in 1966, while the queen has featured on the nation’s notes since 1923.

The first $1 note, designed by Gordon Andrews, featured imagery of Indigenous rock paintings and carvings with a bark painting by artist David Malangi Daymirringu.

After the $1 note was taken out of circulation, it wasn’t until the $10 polymer note was introduced in 1988 that a note featured Indigenous designs again.

The queen also featured on the paper $1 note from decimalisation until it was discontinued. The current $5 design, updated in 2016, is the last Australian banknote design to feature the monarch – with Canberra’s Parliament House on the other side. The $10 has Dame Mary Gilmore and Banjo Paterson, the $20 Mary Reibey and Rev John Flynn, the $50 David Unaipon and Edith Cowan, and the $100 has Sir John Monash and Dame Nellie Melba.

Treadell said Britain was “relaxed” about Australia’s move to remove the reigning monarch.

“We have our own position and our own relationship with the royal family, and we wouldn’t dream of imposing or indeed having views or commenting on what Australia choses to do in their own right.”

It comes after the opposition leader, Peter Dutton, demanded the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, “own” the move, which he said was “woke nonsense”.

“I think it’s another attack on our systems, on our society and our institutions,” he told 2GB radio on Thursday.

“There’s no question about this. It’s directed by the government … He [Albanese] would have been central to the decision-making.”

Dutton said the “silent majority” of Australians disagreed with the decision.

Australians for Constitutional Monarchy accused the government of a “forlorn and futile attempt” to clear the path towards republicanism.

“It will do them no good. Australians will see through this. The Albanese government is behaving as if the people have already decided to turn Australia into a politicians’ republic.”

Dean Smith, a Liberal senator and staunch monarchist, said the decision was disappointing and a “missed opportunity”.

“A design incorporating both our new king and an appreciation for Australia’s Indigenous heritage and culture would be a better and more unifying approach,” he said in a statement.

“This decision misses a unique opportunity for both the RBA and Anthony Albanese to merge these two important aspects of Australia’s story.”

“Although not totally unexpected, breaking with this long tradition will come as a disappointment to many Australians, who have never known anything different.”

The Australian treasurer, Jim Chalmers, said the change to the $5 note was the right decision.

“This is a good opportunity to strike a good balance between the monarch on the coins and a First Nations design on the fiver,” he said. “It’s important to remember that the monarch will continue to be on our coins.”

Voters said in a survey held by the Sydney Morning Herald in October that they would prefer the $5 note to feature an Australian, with only 34% saying King Charles was their choice.