Scott Morrison squibbed it on an issue that's costing taxpayers money - the 5 cent coin

There are other uses for old coins. Photo: Getty Images.

One issue a lot of people were expecting Scott Morrison to deal with on Tuesday night was missing from the Budget papers.

The five cent coin.

It’s an uneconomic product and increasing redundant.

Two years ago, the Royal Australian Mint CEO admitted it costs six cents to produce a 5c coin, which is 75% copper and 25% nickel.

In 2014, the Mint produced 5.8 million 5c coins, losing $58,000 on the deal in the production costs alone. It’s not known how long it’s been a loss-making exercise, but in the previous four years, the Mint produced 247.5 million coins. That’s potentially a $300,000 lost since 2010. News Corp reports the Mint punched out another 20 million in the last 12 months, meaning another $20,000 loss.

The coin, with a curled up echidna on the front, designed and sculpted by Stuart Devlin in the 1960s, celebrated its 50th anniversary on Valentine’s Day this year and the Mint’s boss says demand for it has halved over the last five years.

The Mint expects a further 25% decline in demand for all coins over the next 3-4 years.

Yesterday, Morrison appeared before a room full of journalists at the National Press Club to talk about the budget.

When veteran News Corp political journalist Malcolm Farr rose to ask the treasurer about the fate of the 5c coin, which he called “a nuisance”, Morrison dismissed him, declaring that people weren’t really interested in the topic, before backtracking a little and saying “I’ll take it up with the Reserve Bank governor. Why don’t we get some questions on the Budget?”

It led ABC’s Chris Uhlmann to quip “maybe you could make them in South Australia, but they would cost 10 cents” – a reference to cost blowouts in naval ship construction in the state, something the Turnbull government recommitted in recent weeks.

Meanwhile, Farr has doggedly pursued this waste of taxpayer funds and this morning Morrison finally responded at a Tax Institute breakfast saying “they’re still in circulation, but we don’t make them anymore.”

Apparently that was news to the Mint, which has yet to decommission production, but the 20 million produced in the past year is a long way down from the 306 million produced in 2006.

To give you an idea of how much longer the silver echidna may live on, 1c and 2c coins were withdrawn from circulation in February 1992.

Then treasurer Paul Keating broke the news during the 1990 Budget, citing the cost as one reason to kill them off. The final 124.5 million 2c coins were minted in 1989, the last 133 million 1c coins in 1990.

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