In 2011 it was suggested the United States issue a very high face value platinum coin as a way to bypass U.S. Congress needing to raise the nation’s borrowing limit. The Federal Reserve and the Treasury rejected the idea of these trillion-dollar coins two years later. Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib resurrected the idea in 2020 as a way to fund monthly $2,000 stimulus payments until the end of the coronavirus pandemic. We’ve all seen where that idea went.
The latest attempt at addressing a shortage of funds has been recently unveiled by former Australian Liberal Member of Parliament Craig Kelly. His ‘Kelly Bucks’ paper scrip may have been meant to draw attention to state and federal government debt, the U.S. Treasury and Federal Reserve no one is taking Kelly too seriously. Unfortunately for Kelly it is possible he may have violated the Copyright Act (1968). The Copyright Act (1968) is one of the two pieces of legislation governing the creation of vignettes appearing on Australian bank notes.
Kelly held a press conference on May 11 at which he attempted to draw attention to government debt that appears to be approaching $1 trillion Australian by showing off a pallet of his fake bank notes.
Facebook deactivated Kelly’s public page when he began spreading misinformation about COVID-19. On Twitter Kelly asked, “Wouldn’t you love to have this much money? Well, you do! This represents close to $1 trillion of Federal and State government net debt that you and future generations need to pay off.”
Adding to the debate, Kelly appears to have paid for the novelty notes with his taxpayer-funded printing allowance. Kelly resigned from the Liberal Party in February, becoming a crossbencher. A crossbencher is an independent politician, the name crossbencher originating from the angle of the bench on which such individuals sit while in Parliament.
Kelly’s notes may be of a fictitious denomination that might catch the attention of U.S. Congresswoman Tlaib, but they may be too close in image to what Australia actually issues for comfort. Kelly’s notes include the facsimile signatures of the Reserve Bank of Australia governor and the secretary to the Commonwealth Treasury. Former RBA Governor Glenn Stevens is incorrectly identified as Secretary to the Treasury. Stevens retired in 2016.
Managing director of bank note specialist and coin dealer The Right Note Richard Fahy said, “Using these officers of the Commonwealth of Australia brings their names into ridicule and disrepute.”
The RBA said of the matter that “the Reserve Bank of Australia’s name is not to be associated with any reproduction or image,” adding “no bank note artwork should appear on the reverse of the reproduction or image.”
Kelly’s notes are double sided. A vignette of Australian bushranger, outlaw, gang leader, and convicted police murderer Ned Kelly appears on the back. This includes an abstract visualization of genuine $100 bank notes. Fahy said the RBA guidelines indicate any bank note reproduction should be “less than three-quarters or greater than one and a half times the length and width of the genuine bank note they reproduce.”
Zac Gross is a lecturer in economics at Monash University. Gross formerly worked as an economist at the RBA. Gross’ reaction to the Kelly notes was “It’s unlikely that anyone will try to cash any of these Craig Kelly bucks at the bank. However, I suspect that Martin Place will take a dim view of his stunt – on both economic and legal grounds.” (1 Martin Place in Sydney is well known as the headquarters for Sydney’s most successful businesses.)