Currency

The Reserve Bank is responsible for all aspects of the production and issuance of Australian banknotes. It works to ensure that the public has confidence in their banknotes as a means of payment and a secure store of wealth. Australia's banknotes are printed on a polymer (plastic) material and incorporate a range of security features that are easy for the public to recognise but difficult to copy.

Transcript

Michele Bullock, Assistant Governor

The Reserve Bank actually is responsible for issuing Australian banknotes, but we're also responsible from – all the way from production through to circulation and then withdrawal and ultimate destruction of the banknotes, and the purpose of that is to ensure that the Australian public can be confident in the banknotes and use them in transactions and as a store of value.

It's only been the Reserve Bank's job since earlier in the 1900s. In fact, prior to Federation the commercial banks printed their own banknotes and then eventually that power passed to the Commonwealth and then eventually to the central bank.

Coins actually aren't printed by the Reserve Bank; coins are the responsibility of the Mint which is based in Canberra.

So the first thing about our Australian banknotes is they're plastic and this is quite unusual and it was the first time in the world really that a plastic banknote had been issued, prior to that banknotes were always issued on paper. And that actually is a very important security feature. It does two things. It means it's harder for people to reproduce a banknote on plastic and, in addition, they're much more durable, they last longer in circulation, so that's a really key thing about Australian banknotes.

The design of the banknotes is based on the plastic and it's also got security features in it. The first as I said is plastic, that's a very important thing so it should – if you scrunch it up it should spring back or if you try to tear it, it shouldn't tear easily. But there's also the clear window at the bottom of all the banknotes, and that shouldn't be a stuck on piece of plastic, that should be integral to the banknote.

There's a number of other security features as well. The printing needs to be – you need to see very, very sharp printing and in fact on every banknote there's this little tiny micro printing and if you get a magnifying glass out or if you have really good eyes you might be able to see it, it's very, very precise printing and you can't reproduce that in a counterfeit.

They are quite colourful and that's a very deliberate decision. For people with vision impairments who perhaps don't have very clear vision, the bright colours help them to distinguish between the banknotes. There's a number of other things which help them as well. All the banknotes are a slightly different size, they get longer as they get higher value and they've got big bold numerals on them as well, again to assist people with vision impairment.

There's around about 1.3 billion banknotes in circulation and that in total value is around about $61 billion.

Now counterfeiting isn't a problem in Australia and I think that reflects the fact that we've had such a secure banknote with the plastic banknotes since the mid 1990s so it's a long time. But it isn't a problem. However, we always want to make sure that we're keeping one step ahead of the counterfeiters. Technology these days, the price is coming down, it's getting easier to access this technology and what we want to do is make sure we just stay one step ahead.

So the banknote really is, I've often heard it said, the business card of the country. It's what people see when they come into the country, it's the first thing, so you want something that reflects your cultural heritage or history and in our case what we have on our banknotes from our 10 upwards is we have two people, a male and a female on each side of the banknote and those people have a story behind them, and when you look at the banknote you will see pictures which represent that person's story in our history.

The five dollar is a little different because it has Parliament and the Queen on it, so it more represents democracy, Australia as a democracy.