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Will Australian coins become obsolete?

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Pocket change

I was walking into the shops the other day when I saw a young woman drop a five-cent coin. She paused a nanosecond before continuing on her way.

In that moment of indecision, you could just about see her brain go through the mathematics of the situation – is it worth the time and effort to bend down and pick up the runt of our currency?

Apparently not. And a recent survey shows she’s not on her own.

It found 93 per cent of Australians have thrown away a five-cent coin for being annoying to carry.

I assume the figure would be even higher if they asked whether or not you would keep on walking if you dropped one.

It also revealed the average Aussie “loses” about $2.10 in change each month.

For Millennials you can times that figure by five. And men are looser with their change than women.

The situation has become so bad that the Chief Executive of the Royal Australian Mint has predicted the copper and nickel echidna will become extinct within 10 years, joining the frilled-neck lizard and feathertail gliders in Australia’s shrapnel scrapheap.

At this rate, it won’t be long before our national Mint culls the kangaroo, emu, platypus and superb lyrebird from our coins as well.

A bit like the woman at the beginning of this story, I’m not particularly attached to our non-note currency, although I do have fond memories of poker nights with school mates, catching skyscrapers of coins off my elbow, and a weird game we invented on a Melbourne Cup trip where we tossed dollars against any wall we could find, with the owner of the closest coin collecting the loot.

But I do hope the Aboriginal Elder on our two-dollar coin survives the shake-up over the next few decades or so, the figure inspired by an Ainslie Roberts drawing of Gwoya Jungarai, stands tall among those who cover our currency.

It’s the figurehead on the obverse of our different forms of currency that I would happily see removed, having a British woman on every Australian note and coin seems a perverse form of PR against a republic.

The latest poll on the matter sees supporters of a republic just in front of those who prefer the status quo – it’s so close in fact, you could say it’s a toss of a coin.

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Richard O’Leary is a journalist, a political advisor and a father who knows there’s a deeper meaning to life but struggles to find it.

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