Recognising Australians of note

The Bug’s resident political commentator and analyst unveils a unique idea for civics education that deserves to gain currency.

rufus dinkus

It is many, many years, indeed many decades, since I turned up on my first day of work as a  humble Clerk Grade 1 in the Hen Levy Debtors Section of what was then the Queensland Department of Agriculture, Bovine Insemination and the Arts.

Little did I know on that morning that my career would take as many turns as it has, and would bring me into contact with many important people whose decisions have helped shape the nation we live in today.

The people I have rubbed shoulders with in the workplace since that day have ranged from premiers, to prime ministers as well as policy makers at all levels in the bureaucracy of many governments of all political persuasions.

Over that time I have concluded that one regrettable aspect of our public life in Australia is the lack of lasting recognition given to many deserving people.

Most notable has been the lack of knowledge of our nation’s leaders.

Americans, for example, take great pride in maintaining the memories of their Presidents and their records.

They are taught about them in school and even many young Americans have at least a basic knowledge and appreciation of their leaders even as far back as George Washington.

Yet in Australia our prime ministers come and go and nobody, it seems to me, cares to remember them.

I was pondering this thought the other day when I read a story this week about the release by the Reserve Bank of Australia of a new $20 note.

It struck me that there is a great opportunity to recognise our past PMs by putting them in the hands, quite literally, of Australians by featuring them on our paper, or more correctly  polymer, currency.

I have taken the liberty of commissioning a young graphic artists to prepare some possible samples which I will be mailing off to the Reserve Bank of Australia for consideration.

Of course we have only a limited number of denominations for our bank notes and our $1 and $2 notes were withdrawn in favour of coins many years ago. But my idea might be a reason to bring them back.

The modern printing technology that makes our notes so secure these days could be put to use to accommodate the number of prime ministers needing to be recognised. The holographic printing possible on the plastic notes means at least two images could appear on each side of a single note.

tenner doubleFor instance, where a prime minister has changed in a term, such as happened with Mr Abbott and Mr Turnbull in the 2013-16 period, both could share one side of a note and each could be viewed depending on how a person held the note (pictured).

There is also the possibility of using this same technology to show different aspects of the same prime minister.

Australians of a certain age would recall that John Gorton, Liberal Party prime minister from 1968 to 1971, had a very distinctive face courtesy of the drastic injuries he sustained in a crash when flying as a fighter pilot in World War II.

But not many, I suspect, have seen pictures of Mr Gorton before his injuries.

gortondoubleThe ability to include two images in one, so to speak, is a chance to educate Australians about Mr Gorton and his service to our nation in its defence and not just in its politics, by showing how he looked before and after his injuries (pictured).

I believe my idea is a good one that deserves the support of the Reserve Bank.

I look forward to the response from its Governor, Mr Philip Lowe, to my correspondence.

Rufus Badinage MBE, now retired, is one of Australia’s leading experts on politics and public administration having worked as a senior bureaucrat for various state and federal governments.