I was labouring alongside an apprentice named Jack recently when we scarpered to a nearby cafe to grab some baconand- egg rolls for smoko. As I fumbled about with my wallet, three or four five-cent pieces
spilled out and tinkled onto the floor. I looked down at them disdainfully. Then I looked at Jack. “Wot?” he said in response.
“You can have them if you want, Champion,” I said, nudging one towards him with the toe of my boot.
“I don’t want your f—ing fivers, Hendo!” Jack snorted. “They’re pieces of shit.”
Although Jack and I are separated by a 30-year age gap (underscored daily by his insistence on playing doof-doof music), it struck me we concur on the undeniable contemptibility of the Australian five-cent coin. My own bitter feelings date back to the day they banned the echidna-emblazoned coin as acceptable tender at the old tollbooths on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. As for Jack?
For his entire life there has never existed anything cheap enough to purchase with a five-cent piece.
These days kids look at you in disbelief when you tell tales of the little copper one- and twocent coins that had enough purchasing power to score actual lollies. It’s been a quarter of a century since the government dumped those suckers from our currency, with the explanation that the cost of minting them far exceeded their value. Well, a few years ago the head of the Royal
Australian Mint told a Senate estimates hearing that it costs six cents to make a single five-cent piece. But in 2018 they deemed it necessary to mint 3.3 million of them! It’s possibly the dumbest thing Australia does. I mentioned this to Jack. His response? “Mate,
I told you they were pieces of shit.” Even so, Jack reckons his old man has a jar filled with thousands and thousands of the little bastards. “He’s gunna pay his next parking fine with five-cent coins,” he boasted.
Not so fast! Did you know payments made with five-cent pieces can legally be refused for transactions greater than $5.00? That’s right. It’s money, but not always. What an enormous fraud on the Australian public! But that isn’t the only reason to hate on Australia’s lowest coin:
- Retailers use them to squeeze more dosh out of us. Shops have kept using smaller denominations in their prices even though they know we literally can’t pay the exact amount. Then they round up the total to the next decimal of five. “That’ll be $12.97 thank you sir.” You hand over $15 and get a single $2 coin back. Then they smile at you and chirp “Have a nice day!” as they essentially embezzle three cents.
- There is not a single coin slot in any vending machine in Australia that will accept a fivecent piece. It’s as if the robots have already won the war. They’ve proved they are more evolved than us, having sussed the five-cent coin has no discernible value.
- Pensioners – blue-haired old ladies in particular – horde five-cent pieces that are inevitably produced at the Aldi checkout where you’ve already queued up for 22 minutes for a packet of rice (which will be rounded up from $4.66 to $4.70.) “That’ll be $19.23 thank you ma’am.” Usually, Doris will hand over a $10 and $5 note, but then ‘the purse’ will come out, and with it dozens of five-cent pieces. By the time it’s over you can be considerably closer to collecting your own old-age pension.
- They show us up to be a country of uncaringtight-arses. Ever noticed how those little charity donation boxes on shop counters aremade from see-through perspex? I reckon that’s in order to shame people into dropping in bigger denominations. But it doesn’t work on most of us. Next time you see one, check out the five-cent-piece to $1.00 coin ratio. It’s as pathetic as the weak little ‘doink’ sound the five-cent piece makes as it falls on the others to join the fight against leukaemia.
- The five-cent coin simply doesn’t pass what politicians call ‘the pub test’. I dare anyone to walk into any bar in Australia, order a beer and try to pay with a fist full of five-cent pieces. You’d be refused, stared at – sworn at, even. If you stood your ground and demanded they be received in return for a beer as a matter of national principle – “It’s legal tender of the Commonwealth of Australia, mate!” – there’s a good chance you’d be bounced.
So I hereby appeal to whoever is in charge, be it the Prime Minister, the Treasurer, the boss of the Australian Mint or that pommy woman whose head is imprinted on the back, to do us a favour and kill off this piece of shit.
Jack and I would be very grateful.